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Probabilistic Approaches to Engineering Critical Assessment - funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation (NSIRC254 PhD Studentship)


Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Outline
Engineering analysis methods that can predict and prevent the failure of safety-critical structures are fundamentally important to the energy industry. Nuclear reactors, wind turbines and oil platforms all need to be provably safe in the face of severe and complex loading scenarios. Recently, new structural integrity assessment methods based on Probabilistic Fracture Mechanics (PFM) have emerged in the nuclear energy industry. PFM allows engineers to understand the sources of risk to a structure better, and to predict more realistically what its response will be under uncertain loading conditions.

This project will focus on developing PFM-based methods so that they can be confidently used to assess a wider range of energy structures: particularly those where less restrictive risk profiles are acceptable. For example, in an offshore wind turbine, which is an un-crewed structure with a relatively short design life, a different risk profile is appropriate to that of a nuclear power reactor. You will investigate the limits of probabilistic structural integrity assessment and the interplay between assessment and measurement methods including Ultrasonic Non-Destructive Testing (UNDT) and residual stress measurement.

You will work at the National Structural Integrity Research Centre (NSIRC) in Cambridgeshire and the University of Bristol. The new probabilistic understanding of structural failure that you will develop will inform the UK standard BS 7910 and specialised nuclear-specific structural assessment codes, providing a safer and more rational underpinning for the next generation of energy infrastructure.

About University/Department
The School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (CAME) at the University of Bristol is a nationally leading centre for engineering. In the REF 2014 exercise, 93% of Bristol engineering research was judged to be world leading or internationally excellent and Bristol is currently ranked 1st in the UK for general engineering by both the Guardian and the Times Good University Guide (2020) .

We operate a full suite of equipment for mechanical testing and characterisation of materials - including dedicated laboratories for uniaxial, multiaxial and fracture testing, high-temperature creep characterisation, and microstructural analysis. Of particular importance for this project is Bristol’s uniquely-capable residual stress measurement laboratory – notable for the development of the Deep Hole Drilling method of residual stress measurement and the spin-out company VEQTER ltd. You will be based within the Solid Mechanics Research Group (SMRG) in CAME. The SMRG comprises nine faculty staff with a collective research portfolio of over £5.5M plus a large team of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.

Bristol is also home to the South West Nuclear Hub which provides a direct link to energy industry stakeholders who will benefit from this research. Hub initiatives include EDF’s High Temperature Centre which provides ongoing funding for research on structural materials for energy applications. This includes ongoing work on probabilistic high-temperature assessment and probabilistic fracture assessment that this project will directly complement. The SMRG also hosts a range of other current projects on structural integrity for energy applications, with funders including NDA, CCFE, Frazer-Nash, EPSRC and the Carbon Trust.

NSIRC is a state-of-the-art postgraduate engineering facility established and managed by structural integrity specialist TWI, working closely with lead academic partner Brunel University, the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Loughborough, Birmingham, Leicester and a number of leading industrial partners. NSIRC aims to deliver cutting edge research and highly qualified personnel to its key industrial partners.

Candidate Requirements
Candidates should hold/achieve a minimum of a master’s degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant discipline such as Engineering or Data Science. Applicants without a master’s qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis, provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree. Overseas applicants must satisfy the University of Bristol’s Profile E language category (, equivalent to an IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.0 in all categories.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by EPSRC, Lloyds Register Foundation and TWI. The scholarship covers full UK/EU (EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to application) PhD tuition fees and a tax-free stipend of £18,000 per annum. EU nationals resident in the EU may also apply and will qualify only for PhD tuition fees.
Non-EU students are welcome to apply, but the funding will only cover the cost of overseas tuition fees and the applicant need to self-fund their living cost for three years.

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