PhD Studentship: Plasticity fundamentals: using nano-indentation to ‘fingerprint’ point defects in metals

Coventry University

Principal investigator: Dr Xiaodong Hou

Research into the strength and damage resistance of materials is an internationally “hot” topic, driven by the need to develop stronger, lighter, tougher metallic components. Recent research has shown that small beams/fibres/crystals are stronger and such ‘size-effects’ can change the strength of a material by an order of magnitude. Test size similarly affects the measurement of strength - “smaller is harder”. The ability to vary the test size in nano-indentation and study the interaction with local plasticity has the potential to create new indentation measurement methods that are sensitive to local plasticity length scale and type.

Total indentation hardness response is a function of material yield stress, determined by a combination of the indentation size effect and a material characteristic length scale generated by the frequency of obstacles to dislocation mobility within the material. It is proposed that suitable indentation size effect measurement strategies can be adopted to “fingerprint” the type and density of point defects present in a material. In conjunction with elevated temperature testing, it is also proposed to identify the activation energy of the obstacles present.

The project, therefore, will:

  • Establish best practice guidelines for nano-indentation as a materials screening procedure for point defects.
  • Evaluate characterization-method-related transferability issues, such as size effects or substrate effects, which must be taken into account in order to obtain equivalent data for materials of different plastic damage.
  • Generate guidelines for using new nano-indentation-based methods to identify different types of damage and unravel the superimposing effects of microstructure, size, substrate, graded-layer or pile-up.

Our research in Manufacturing and Materials Engineering builds on our historic research strengths at Coventry, and adds new research teams through investment and growth. It integrates seamlessly with the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, our flagship collaboration with Unipart Manufacturing.

This area of research will take a holistic approach to fabrication and manufacturing, focusing on the three strands of Materials, Processes, and Products; and underpinned by our expertise in Metrology and Advanced Experimentation.

We aim to be the research partner of choice for manufacturing industry in adding value, effecting knowledge transfer, generating intellectual property, and raising new technologies from concept up through the Manufacturing Readiness Levels.

Successful applicants will have:

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the Project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average, or
  • A Masters Degree in a relevant subject area will be considered as an equivalent. The Masters must have been attained with overall marks at merit level (60%). In addition, the dissertation or equivalent element in the Masters must also have been attained with a mark at merit level (60%).
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Additional items for candidate specification

  • An experimentalist, preferably with some experience of equipment or instrumentation development
  • Degree level understanding of materials science; especially the structure and strength of materials
  • Basic computer coding and/or modelling/simulation skills

Application Procedure:

Application information can be found in our how to apply section. Before completing the application please contact (and cc in for an initial informal discussion about the opportunity.

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Midlands of England