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PhD Studentship: Probabilistic Fracture Mechanics for Structural Integrity Assessment

University of Bristol - Mechanical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bristol
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £16,000 annual stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 1st August 2018
Closes: 31st October 2018

The project:

Fracture mechanics calculations are used to assess the acceptability of flaws in safety-critical welded structures. Engineers use assessments based on fracture mechanics to, for example, justify component life-extension and to inform defect-tolerant design. Most assessments are carried out ‘deterministically’, i.e. using a single conservative set of inputs designed to ensure a high margin of safety. However, within the nuclear industry and elsewhere there is an increasing requirement for probabilistic assessment. Probabilistic assessment is more data-intensive and computationally demanding, but integrity assessments based on probability-of-failure can provide much more information to the designer, plant operator and regulator. The complex nature of welded joints in metals (imperfect microstructure, presence of residual stresses and defects) makes it difficult to perform accurate probabilistic assessment on them.

In this PhD project, you will explore the issues associated with determining residual stresses in welded joints and incorporating imperfect residual stress information into probabilistic fracture mechanics calculations of real structural components. You will work at the National Structural Integrity Research Centre (NSIRC) near Cambridge and at the University of Bristol, collaborating closely with colleagues from TWI ltd. Your work will be used to improve fitness-for-service assessment standards such as BS 7910 (the UK’s general assessment standard for metallic structures) and R6 (the UK nuclear industry’s assessment procedure), ensuring the safe and reliable operation of high-dependability mechanical parts.

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at Please select <Mechanical Engineering> on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Candidate requirements: 

Home/EU applicants only
A minimum 2:1 honours degree in Engineering or a related discipline.

Basic skills and knowledge required:

Some knowledge or experience of stress analysis is essential. Knowledge of statistical analysis and/or fitness-for-service assessment together with scientific coding skills and experience with software development would be an advantage.


Scholarship covers full UK/EU (EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to 1st September 2018) PhD tuition fees and a minimum tax-free stipend of £16,000 subject to contracts.

Contacts:   Dr Harry Coules (

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