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PhD studentship in Novel High Entropy Alloys (HEAs) for Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs), with National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL)

   School of Metallurgy & Materials

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  Dr S Knowles  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A 3.5-year UK PhD studentship is available in the group of Dr Sandy Knowles within the School of Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham.

This project is co-sponsored by National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) with industrial supervisors Dr Paul Styman and Dr Alexandra Cackett.

The research group investigates new alloys for extreme environments from fusion/fission reactors to aerospace gas turbines and concentrated solar power. This involves the design of fundamentally new alloys by computational methods; production through arc melting, powder metallurgy or additive manufacturing; characterisation using advanced electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction techniques; mechanical testing using macro/micro-mechanical methods and failure investigation; and environmental behaviour under oxidation/corrosion and irradiation damage.

High-entropy alloys (HEAs) are multi-component alloys comprising a minimum of four elements, each with >5at.% concentration. They have been found to demonstrate excellent corrosion and oxidation resistance, high strength, and resistance to radiation damage, especially at high temperatures 500-1000°C, and are therefore potential candidates for advanced modular reactors (AMRs). The development of HEAs is still in the early stages, so there remains a lot still to be understood about these complex alloys.

Of particular interest to the nuclear fission community is the potential for HEAs to be used in next-generation reactors, such as liquid metal cooled or fast reactors. Categories of HEAs composed of 3d transition metals and those based on refractory metals are especially promising due to their high melting points and advantageous mechanical properties up 1000°C: strength, creep and ductility. Since the components within advanced reactors will be exposed to much higher neutron doses compared to the current fleet, understanding the irradiation hardening, creep and swelling resistance will be vital, alongside corrosion/oxidation.

There is currently limited data on the response of HEAs following irradiation, therefore this project proposes to investigate the properties of AMR relevant HEAs under irradiated conditions. This research builds on an existing collaboration between UoB and NNL and would make use of their combined equipment and expertise. Fabrication of these alloys is possible at the UoB and subsequent irradiation can be performed within the new ‘High Flux Accelerator-Driven Neutron Facility’ & Cyclotron proton accelerator, including in-situ testing. The effect of irradiation will be measured using small scale techniques such as small punch testing. Accompanying microstructural characterisation would also form part of this work to understand the underlying mechanisms that are responsible for HEAs’ promising irradiation behaviours.

The candidate should have a 1st class Undergraduate or Masters degree (or equivalent) in Materials Science, or related discipline. A background in microstructural characterisation and/or mechanical testing would be advantageous.

To Apply please provide: (1) A curriculum vitae (CV), (2) A Cover Letter summarising your research interests and suitability for the position, and (3) The contact details of two Referees.

Please send to Dr Sandy Knowles - [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funding for UK students includes tuition fees and a tax-free ‘stipend’ of £15,609 per year for your living costs, which is paid in monthly instalments.


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