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Towards a Fundamental Understanding of Stress Relaxation Cracking - NSIRC251 PhD Studentship

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Institution: National Structural Integrity Research Center (NSIRC)

PhD Supervisor: Imran Bhamji and Kasra Sotoudeh

Application Deadline: Open all year round


Sustainable energy generation is crucial for the future of our planet, and the integrity of power-plants, required for sustainable energy production, is reliant on miles of welded material. These welds, in concentrated solar power-plants for example, operate in extreme environments, involving high temperatures, high loads, and corrosive fluids, and are therefore frequent sources of failure. This project will focus on one particular failure mode, Stress Relaxation Cracking (SRC), which is a high temperature failure mode that has plagued power plants for decades. The failure mode is highly complex, and involves interactions between microstructure, loading and environment (e.g. temperature, molten salts etc). The problem is poorly understood, and there is a great industrial need to better understand the failure mode before devising strategies to prevent failure.

There will be a huge advantage to the use advanced characterisation techniques to study the factors involved in SRC, and their interactions, in detail. It is hoped that these characterisation techniques will allow a new mechanism for SRC to be established, which is particularly important because of the deficiencies in our current understanding.

The PhD project will support a Joint Industry Project on SRC, which has 5 industrial sponsors, and both of these programs will run in parallel.

Project Outline

The project might consider the influences of some of the following factors, and their interactions, on SRC:

Weld metal composition: SRC is associated with welds and weld metal composition is thought to play an important role in the risk of cracking;
Aging: Studying microstructure and the formation of different precipitates, at the high temperatures that these materials are used;
Micro-mechanical properties: The influence of aging and microstructures on grain boundary strength and other properties;
Residual stress: The association of SRC with locked in residual stresses.
Advanced materials characterisation will be undertaken using the following techniques:
Electron microscopy: Scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM & TEM). 3D grain reconstruction using electron back-scatter diffraction (EBSD) and focused ion beams (FIB).
Residual stress measurements: At high energy beamlines, such as the diamond light source in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Micro-mechanical testing: Testing of very small scale samples (<1mm in size) using cantilever bend specimens and imaging of micro-strain using digital image correlation.

Key words:

Stress relaxation cracking, residual stress, high temperature corrosion, creep, stainless steel, nickel alloys.


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 have a relevant degree at 2.1 minimum, or an equivalent overseas degree, in an Engineering, Materials or Chemistry field. Overseas applicants should also submit IELTS results (minimum 6.5) if applicable.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by TWI and the University. The studentship will provide successful Home/EU students with a minimum stipend of £16k/year and will cover the cost of tuition fees. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, with total funding capped at £24k per year.

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