PhD Opportunities

Solid Mechanics Research Group at the University of Bristol

The available projects include:

  • High temperature digital image correlation of small punch test‌ (UKAEA)
  • Plasticity-induced damage in high temperature reactors‌ (EDF Energy)
  • Simulation and experimental validation of creep–fatigue interaction (UKAEA)
  • Welded joints behaviour in high temperature reactors (EDF Energy)

Further information on all the project and the Solid Mechanics Research group:

Available projects

Multi-scale Characterisation of Residual Stress in AGR Fuel Cladding

  • Institution: University of Bristol
  • Application deadline: 1st October
  • Supervisor: Dr Harry Coules

Residual stresses in the stainless steel cladding of spent Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) nuclear fuel elements affect their behaviour during storage. For example, in a fuel storage pond the cladding can experience a type of material degradation known as Inter-Granular Stress Corrosion Cracking (IGSCC) which is caused by a combination of stress and electrochemical action. To ensure that spent fuel elements can be stored safely, it is important to be able to measure stresses inside the cladding material and understand how they develop during manufacture, irradiation and storage. This includes stresses at the scale of a complete fuel element but also at much smaller scales: micro-scale residual stresses between adjacent crystallites of steel can also affect the material’s behaviour.

Working in the Solid Mechanics group at the University of Bristol, you will develop specialised techniques for measuring stresses in AGR fuel cladding. These could include destructive methods which involve cutting specimens with Electrical Discharge Machining or a Focussed Ion Beam while measuring how they deform, or non-destructive techniques based on the scattering of X-rays and neutron radiation. The project will make use of Bristol’s dedicated labs for materials characterisation, residual stress analysis and electron microscopy, and will also access national facilities for radiation scattering when necessary.


Materials for Zero Carbon Energy Systems

  • Institution: University of Bristol
  • Funding: Min £15,009. Can include enhanced stipend of up to £17,000 per year
  • Application deadline: 30th November

Nuclear energy systems experience extremes of temperature, pressure and irradiation; materials within the reactor must be capable of surviving such physical conditions. Materials for nuclear energy systems is a significant research topic in the UK and worldwide, with University of Bristol (UoB) having an excellent track record in this area.

PhD opportunities are available, involving developing new materials for nuclear energy systems and improving understanding and performance of existing materials. There is sufficient flexibility within the UoB research programme to carry out both modelling and experimental work. There is also opportunity for you to design, plan and then deliver experiments at central X-ray and neutron facilities in the UK and internationally. Your research work may result in significant industrial benefit – helping towards the UK’s zero carbon aims.

UoB is also a partner in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Nuclear Energy Futures, led by Imperial College. Some of the projects can be incorporated into the CDT if desired; compared to a normal 3.5 year PhD, the CDT is 4 years in duration, with much of the first year focusing on taught courses and personal/professional development.

Please contact Professor Chris Truman or Dr Mahmoud Mostafavi with any informal enquiries.


PhD Opportunity in Microscintillator radioactivity detector

  • Institution: University of Bristol
  • Supervisor: Dr Karen Aplin, Department of Aerospace Engineering

Traditionally, Geiger counters are used as radiation detectors; however, they are limited by their inability to determine the energy of the radiation they measure. This project involves development of a new miniature radioactivity detector, a “microscintillator” which is similar to a Geiger counter, but with the added benefit that it can measure the energy of the radioactive particle. The device is able to measure count rates, analogous to a Geiger counter, but can also differentiate between the different energies of incoming particles. It is also small and low-power enough for use in airborne applications; we believe it is the smallest and cheapest detector of its type available. It has already been trialled on high-altitude balloons and uncrewed airborne vehicles (UAVs), and units are being sold to researchers around the world.

The goal of this project is to carry out technical development of the instrument, such as discrimination of different particle types through simple pulse shape identification, and optimisation of the detector and measurement system. The student will also use both physics and engineering software to model the device’s response and better understand and characterise its measurements in the atmosphere or in space.

More information

The Physics and Mechanics of Creep Cavity Nucleation and Sintering in Energy Materials

  • Institution: University of Bristol with University of Oxford and Open University
  • Investigators: Professor Peter Flewitt, University of Bristol and Professor Alan Cocks, University of Oxford

The research in this project will link with a collaborative initiative supported by the EPSRC (EP/R026076/1). The overall research initiative will consider the physics and mechanics of creep cavity nucleation and sintering that occurs in polycrystalline materials. The materials selected will have different compositions and microstructures. There are three universities participating in the overall programme - Open, Oxford and Bristol. The research described here will be carried out through a PhD studentship funded by the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, USA at the University of Bristol.

In addition, there will be close collaboration with EPRI. EPRI will provide a series of laboratory- and service-exposed creep specimens on tempered martensitic steels of known pedigree.

Further information