Microgravity Space Experiments on Alloy Solidification


   School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

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  Prof D Browne  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

University College Dublin (UCD) has recently taken delivery of a device from the European Space Agency (ESA) in which the solidification of alloys can be observed in real-time using X-rays. The equipment is known as XRMON-SOL, and we have led such a space experiment in the past – carried out on a sounding rocket, which achieves 6 minutes of near-zero gravity.

XRMON refers to the European research consortium, of which we are a member: “In-situ X-Ray Monitoring of advanced alloy solidification processes under microgravity and terrestrial conditions”.

ESA has recently approved a new experiment, proposed by UCD, to fly another sounding rocket mission in 2025. We have to prepare for this by carrying out ground-based experiments and finally a rehearsal when we have finalised the experimental parameters, to achieve optimal scientific output from the 6 minutes of onboard microgravity. The PhD student will first be involved in the preparation and execution of the preliminary set of experiments. This will be on aluminium alloys, and ultimately we will move to magnesium alloys. Both are low-density alloys and will be important in creating light vehicles to mitigate climate change: advanced knowledge on how they solidify, and the effects of gravity, will be crucial in improving manufacturing processes such as casting, welding and additive manufacturing. The student will prepare the equipment and perform detailed planning of the experiment for the microgravity flight. This will involve some international travel, mostly to our XRMON partners within Europe, but also further afield to present at global conferences etc.. It is expected that the student will attend, and be an active participant at, the rocket launch site – previously at the Swedish Space Corporation’s space centre at Esrange, near Kiruna, northern Sweden. He/she will then be involved with analysis, interpretation, reporting and publication of the results of the space experiment. In addition, the PhD scholar will contribute to preparation of similar experiments to be carried out on the International Space Station. The project will be co-supervised by Prof. David Browne and Dr Mert Celikin.

A full 4-year scholarship will be offered, to include a competitive tax-free stipend and fully-covered tuition fees. Funding will also be available for international travel and for laboratory expenses. A new computer will be provided. A start in early 2024 is foreseen.

PhD graduates in this field at UCD have been recently in high demand by employers.

Candidates should have an honours Bachelors degree in Materials Science & Engineering, Metallurgy, Mechanical Engineering, or a related and cognate subject. A Masters degree would also be beneficial. 

Applicants should provide a cover letter and CV, by 31st December 2023 at the latest, to: 

Professor David J. Browne

School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering 

University College Dublin

tel: +353 1 716 1901             email  [Email Address Removed]


Engineering (12) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Funding is from the European Space Agency
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