PhD Studentship - Developing Continuum Mechanics Simulation Methods for Exploring Microstructural Changes in Nuclear Fuel

University of Sheffield - Materials Science and Engineering

A 42-month research studentship under the EPSRC CASE scheme and co-sponsored by the National Nuclear Laboratory is available immediately in the field of computational modelling of nuclear materials.

The focus of the research will be to develop continuum mechanics simulation methods for exploring microstructural changes in nuclear fuel. The technique that will be the centre of the research, Smooth Particle Applied Mechanics (or Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics) is a mesh-free Lagrangian solver for the equations of continuum mechanics. SPAM is ideally suited to modelling large strains such as might occur in any radiation-induced swelling, ultimately leading to micro cracking and therefore failure of fuel in-pile. This approach is highly novel and exciting and the output from the PhD is expected to have a high impact within the nuclear materials modelling community.

The successful candidate will undertake research to develop SPAM as a technique for modelling radiation induced material property changes in nuclear fuel. The first part of the PhD will develop the SPAM algorithms for modelling the formation of cracks and voids within ceramic materials. The second part of the project will involve analysing data from Post Irradiation Examination (PIE) experiments and existing rate theory models to determine physical property changes from bubble swelling and crack growth and microstructural evolution that will be used as model input. Finally, the SPAM model will be applied to model the observed deformations. Towards the end of the project we will consider how to apply the technique to new fuels including mixed oxide (MOX) Fuels for fast reactors and accident tolerant fuels (ATF).

The successful candidate will be joining a diverse research group which currently has 4 PhD students led by Dr Karl Travis. This group has over recent years developed a strong track record in applying SPAM to a diverse range of problems. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to play a key role in extending this important research to this new class of problems. The project is sponsored by the National Nuclear Laboratory who will actively support the project through their advanced fuels programme and the H2020 project INSPYRE which support NNL’s R&D in ATF and MOX fuels respectively. The project will include a 6 month placement in industry. These links will allow the candidate to disseminate their research to stakeholders across the UK nuclear industry and to leading European researchers in the field.

Funding Details

This project is sponsored by the National Nuclear Laboratory. The studentship is granted for 3.5 years.

Applications are welcomed from candidates with a strong undergraduate interest and/or background in solid state chemistry, condensed matter physics, materials science or related fields.

Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of at least the Research Council minimum (currently £14,553) for eligible UK and EU applicants. EU nationals must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme to be eligible for a full award (fees and stipend). Other EU nationals may be eligible for a fees-only award.

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