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Understanding the type, distribution and mechanical properties of interfaces in geological systems

   Department of Materials

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  Dr F Giuliani, Dr Katharina Marquardt, Dr Sam Krevor  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Funding and Deadline: To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC1. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting as soon as possible and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £19,668 Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours or a high 2:1 degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in Materials Engineering, another branch of engineering or a related science. Funding is through the project InFUSE (Interface with the future: underpinning science to support the energy transition), funded by the EPSRC and Shell.

Project summary

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) provides a very promising solution to sequester current CO2 production and allow critical process that are difficult to decarbonise to continue running into the future. Understanding the suitability of different rock types for CCS requires a detailed knowledge of among other things their mechanical properties both before and after CO2 injection. The mechanical properties of brittle materials are governed by their ability to dissipate energy which is often controlled by the properties of their interfaces. For example, weak interfaces can promote crack deflection and crack bridging mechanisms giving increased performance. These mechanisms have been studied and optimised in many structural ceramic systems however, in geological materials less work has been carried out.

In this project we propose to both measure the distribution of interfaces and interface categories within different rock types and measure the mechanical the properties of individual key interfaces. In this project you will develop skills in micromechanics, high resolution electron microscopy included EBSD and synchrotron techniques at the Diamond Light Source, the UKs national synchrotron facility. This is a key partner in the project and will support the design of novel environments to study samples under operando conditions. This would give unique insight into the microstructure of candidate rock types. This could then potentially be extended to include samples that have been exposed to supercritical CO2. This could be particularly important in basalt rocks with their ability to mineralize CO2. This allows to cracks to fill with newly formed carbonates and silicates on relatively short timescales (~1-2 years). Yet the whole process of reaction driven cracking is not well understood. This is either regarded as beneficial for safety, by preventing leakage, or as detrimental as mineralization may seal fluid paths and thus reduce permeability. It should also be noted that these research techniques are quite general and a secondary program could be applied to completely different brittle material systems, such as the build-up of damage in battery materials leading to performance degradation.

Informal enquiries about the post and the application process can be made to Prof Finn Giuliani by including a motivation letter and CV.

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