Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes
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Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes

Understanding the role of lead-based ballistic modifiers in the combustion of double base propellants

School of Chemistry

About the Project

Ballistic modifiers are additives in double base propellants that stabilise the burning rate of the propellant mixture to changes in pressure. Lead-based ballistic modifiers, such as lead stearate, are ideal because they produce a plateau (constant) burn rate within a desired pressure range, enhancing the control and reliability in the performance of rocket motors. [1,2]
Given the toxicity issues surrounding lead, there is mounting pressure to find replacements, however efforts to date with similar alternatives such as Cu- and Sn-based modifiers have failed to produce plateau burning.[3,4] As such, it is now necessary to understand how lead-based ballistic modifiers produce super-rate and plateau burning at a more fundamental level, in order to obtain the key characteristics required of any potential replacement material.
The main aims of this PhD project are to characterise the species formed from existing Pb-modifiers under combustion conditions, and establish how these products interact with the key components in double base propellants (nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin). Work will also focus on Cu- and Sn-based modifiers to observe any differences in behaviour. This project will generate fundamental information to help tailor the process of finding working alternatives to lead-based modifiers in double base propellants. It will also generate experimental data to complement a computational modelling project on the same topic currently running at Edinburgh (led by Prof. Morrison).

The successful candidates will possess, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper-second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in chemistry or a closely related discipline. Essential qualities include a strong background in synthesis and characterisation techniques (such as mass spectrometry, electrochemistry, infrared spectroscopy, and calorimetry). Other essential attributes are good presentation and communication skills (written and oral) and ability to meet deadlines. In the first instance, informal enquiries (accompanied by a CV) should be directed to: Prof. Colin R. Pulham () and Prof. Carole Morrison (), School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, David Brewster Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FJ, UK.
Formal applications to Edinburgh are made through the University’s EUCLID system. http://www.chem.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate-research/applications-and-entry-requirements

The position will remain open until filled and is available to start any time.

Equality and Diversity
The School of Chemistry holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education. The University is a member of the Race Equality Charter and is a Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment. See our University Initiatives website for further information. University Initiatives website: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/help-advice/family-friendly

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years, covering tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,285 for a candidate satisfying EPSRC’s criteria (View Website)


: [1] N. Kubota, T. J. Ohlemiller, L. H. Caveny and M. Summerfield, Symp. Combust., 1975, 15, 529–537. [2] N. Kubota, Symp. Combust., 1979, 17, 1435–1441. [3] A. P. Denisyuk, L. A. Demidova and V. I. Galkin, Combust. Explos. Shock Waves, 1995, 31, 161–167. [4] D. J. Hewkin, J. A. Hicks, J. Powling and H. Watts, Combust. Sci. Technol., 1971, 2, 307–327.

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