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Graphite and MAX phases: Examination of nuclear materials with two-dimensional nanostructures

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, February 28, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Critical developments in nuclear technology rely on the availability of high-temperature irradiation and mechanical damage-tolerant materials that can be synthesised at low cost, for example, graphite and MAX phases. Graphite has found application as a neutron moderator and reflector, plasma interface material for fusion, and target for particle physics, and MAX phases are another class of hexagonal 2D carbide or nitride material that are emerging as potential materials for nuclear fuel cladding and pump impellers, on account of their very high mechanical and irradiation damage tolerance at elevated temperatures. In both materials, the structure-property relationships and damage accumulation mechanisms are relatively poorly understood, affecting their suitability for design and structural integrity assessments.

In this project, you will use diffraction-based methods to study the 2D nanostructures in numerous types of materials and investigate the underlying mechanisms responsible for their deformation in realistic industrial applications. A starting point of the study will be the characterisation of reference samples of virgin graphite for use in the muon target and Gen-IV reactors and novel MAX phases for nuclear fission and fusion applications. Combining the results from neutron diffraction, transmission electron microscope and Raman spectroscopy, you will be able to understand the diffraction patterns in these materials better and establish an algorithm to best analyse them. Based on this, you will apply your findings to industrial graphite and MAX phases to study the material changes after they have been exposed to high temperature, neutron and/or proton irradiation. This will yield unprecedented insight into the fundamental aspects of the defects in these materials and how they accommodate strains when they are deformed as in industrial applications. Another exciting aspect of this project is that you will be able to synthesise novel MAX phases in particular for neutronic applications. Neutron radiography on beamline IMAT (ISIS, RAL) will be the main approach and Bragg edge radiography will provide you live information on the spatial distribution of phases produced during the process, with neutron resonances further used to noninvasively monitor the temperature distributions.

You will take advantage of key facilities in this project in particular ENGINX, IMAT in the UK and Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA, including working jointly with colleagues at these facilities. As it is a multi-partner project, the PhD student would receive a rewarding and beneficial training by interacting with academic, national labs and industrial partners. The results generated in your PhD project will be shared and discussed with colleagues at the UK STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), UKAEA Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, EDF Energy, National Nuclear Laboratory, EU SCK-CEN, and US FermiLab. It is anticipated that you will spend time in both Bristol and RAL for experiments and data analysis.

Enquiries regarding the positions and applications including cover letter, CV and preferably transcript, should be send to Dr. Dong Liu at . Deadline for the applications is 28 February, 2019. Anticipated start date for the PhD is late September, 2019.

Funding Notes

You should have a first or upper second-class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in Materials, Physics, Chemistry or Engineering and the enthusiasm to work with international partners. This studentship is co-funded by the University of Bristol and ISIS, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for 3.5 years. You will be supervised by Dr. Dong Liu (University of Bristol) and Dr. Joe Kelleher (ENGINX, ISIS, STFC RAL). This project involves both experimental and modelling approaches, and we are looking for a candidate with great passion for diffraction, nuclear fission and fusion materials.

How good is research at University of Bristol in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.15

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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