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Large volume 3D imaging of defects in energy production materials

   Department of Materials

  Dr A Gholinia  Thursday, September 01, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This exciting EngD/PhD project in 3D microscopy of advanced materials is in collaboration between, the Faculty or Science and Engineering, University of Manchester (www.manchester.ac.uk), the National Physical Laboratory (www.npl.co.uk), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, and our industrial partner Jacobs (www.jacobs.com). Starting in October 2022, the successful candidate is expected to spend significant amounts of time at all the three institutions, gaining unique access to facilities and equipment relevant to the project and receiving support and training from experts in different fields. They will gain access to professional development opportunities, training and support offered at NPL through the Postgraduate Institute for Measurement Science (PGI), while on industrial placement at Jacobs.

The strength and failure mode of advanced materials critical to a net zero carbon economy are often governed by their 3D structures, including current issues of materials degradation of high performance novel alloys in the nuclear industry. Before the necessary digital twins of the 3D structures can be developed for modelling and the assessment of component lifetimes in safety critical roles a number of issues need to be addressed. Firstly, for correlative microscopy approaches, reliable 3D data sets produced from a series of 2D sections are required with quantified uncertainties. Secondly, there is also an issue of scale where currently the small size of samples that can be analysed limits their usefulness. In this project we expect to use fs-lasers to extend the volumes 100 folds compared to BIB and P-FIB techniques. These techniques will be developed to apply to materials used in industry for power generation, in particular materials in extreme environments in next generation nuclear power being developed by the industrial partner, Jacobs. Example applications include corrosion of Zr nuclear fuel cladding material, SCC and fatigue in Ni and steel structural materials and novel microstructures in AM components.

Applicants are expected to hold, or be about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Physical Sciences (such as Physics and Materials Science). A Masters degree in a relevant Physical Science subject and/or experience in electron microscopy, programming in Delphi, metrology are desirable.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

 We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). All appointments are made on merit.

Funding Notes

This award offers an attractive and competitive studentship with additional industrial contribution that covers home fees, stipend at EPSRC rates (plus industrial contribution from Jacobs) and funding (plus industrial contribution from Jacobs) that will cover travel between the three partner institutions, consumables and equipment access.


A. Gholinia et al., Coupled Broad Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscopy (BIB-SEM) for polishing and three dimensional (3D) Serial Section Tomography (SST), Ultramicroscopy, 214, (2020) 112989. DOI: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2020.112989.
B. Winiarski et al., Correction of artefacts associated with large area EBSD, Ultramicroscopy, 226, (2021) 113315. DOI: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2021.113315.
A. Garner et al., Large-scale serial sectioning of environmentally assisted cracks in 7xxx Al alloys using femtosecond laser-PFIB, Materials Characterization, 188, (2022) 111890. DOI: 10.1016/j.matchar.2022.111890.
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