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High-Entropy Alloy (HEAs) coatings for corrosion protection interfaces in molten salt energy systems

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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Dr F Pessu , Prof R Brydson , Dr G Kale No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Leeds United Kingdom Climate Science Energy Technologies Mechanical Engineering Other

About the Project

Concentrated solar power (CSP) plants and generation IV molten salt nuclear reactors (MSRs) uses high boiling point molten salts (MS) as heat transfer fluid (HTF), thermal energy storage (TES) and coolants. The extreme conditions in MS systems poses complex material degradation issues linked to corrosion, chemical speciation kinetics, high temperature (HT) fatigue and irradiation induced creep to conventional alloys. This limits CSP/MSR efficiencies, increase the costs of stable energy supply. As such, the need for advanced material systems/interfaces is timely given the UK’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050. Higher-Entropy alloys (HEAs) are a new class of alloys and a rapidly growing area of materials science that can potentially replace the use of traditional alloys in extreme and aggressive conditions encountered in MS systems. HEAs are multi-component alloy systems of 5 or more elements with close to equimolar proportions. The commonly found alloying elements such as Co, Cr, Fe, Ni, in 70% of HEAs developed to date are known to offer novel and enhanced functional properties to the HEAs as a result of the cocktail effects. HEAs based on the five element FeCrMnNiCo system have been shown to have an attractive combination of superior thermo-mechanical and structural properties and radiation induced volume swelling in AlxCoCrFeNi alloys has been shown to be lower than that of conventional nuclear materials. HEAs show promise for application in next generation MS energy systems due to the considerable structural and functional potential. This project explores the potential cocktail effects offered by HEAs based on Co, Cr, Fe, and Ni to mitigate metal degradation in next generation CSPs and MSRs. The desired HEAs will be deposited as a coating on traditional alloys using optimised methodologies based on Sol-gel dip coating and electrodeposition. HEAs coated alloys will guide the in-situ synthesis of spinel oxides with bespoke chemistries and functional properties in MS at 600 degree celcius or above to mitigate alloy degradation mechanisms. A suite of state-of-the-art surface/subsurface characterisation techniques will be implemented to effectively characterise deposited HEAs coatings and MS-oxide-HEAs-base-metal interface. Phase equilibrium and thermodynamic modelling will be used to select alloying elements in HEAs. This will help develop new understanding of the functional properties of HEAs/spinel oxides; adhesion, thermo-mechanical/chemical resilience, interfacial chemical footprint, porosity etc, needed for Gen IV MS energy systems. This project could potentially inspire the use of cheaper alloys with HEAs in MS systems and deliver on EPSRC’s Energy Transition Material strategy.

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC Bragg Centre Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of £15,285 (currently for session 2020/21) for 3.5 years.
This opportunity is open to all applicants, with a small number of awards for Non-UK applicants limited by UKRI to 1. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Bragg Centre Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.
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