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Synthesis of non-oxide ceramic powders via routes that suit industry

University of Birmingham - School of Metallurgy and Materials

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,777
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th May 2019
Expires: 12th August 2019

This project is funded by the UK’s Ministry of Defence and involves Kennametal and Novamat, two UK companies, and the University of Birmingham. It is a PhD studentship that is focused on developing new synthesis routes for non-oxide ceramic powders by route that are specifically designed to be applicable to industry. The project will thus suit graduates who are naturally inquisitive, have a good quality first degree in materials science & engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry or similar subject and who enjoy working on industrially-related projects that offer training in both science and engineering skills. The successful candidate will undertake their research in a very supportive environment within a research team of around 15 individuals.

Non-oxide ceramics have many uses in the defence industry, ranging from armour to hypervelocity missile control surfaces and civil applications in nuclear fusion and fission, cutting tools and automotive components amongst many others. However, the UK has little ability to make precursor powders at anything much above laboratory scale.

Using boron carbide, B4C, and zirconium diboride, ZrB2, as exemplars, the PhD will focus on developing a process route for advanced non-oxide powders that is specifically designed to be capable of being scaled up in the UK. It will involve wet chemistry to make the relevant precursors (which will permit doping with additional elements); a low temperature thermal treatment to remove volatiles; a higher temperature carbothermal reduction; and milling, binder addition and drying as required.

The project, to be conducted at the University of Birmingham, will also have input from Kennametal and Novamet, two UK companies. Both have experience in powder synthesis and the former has recently demonstrated that a spark plasma synthesis (SPS) facility can be used successfully for large-scale carbothermal reduction. With assistance from industry, the student will also determine the projected costs for a full-scale plant, scan the business environment and develop a business case.

This PhD is funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, DSTL, in the UK and has major involvement from two UK companies, Kennametal and Novamat. As a result of the funding source, the opportunity is only open to UK or EU nationals. Home fees and a standard stipend (£14,777) will be provided, together with opportunities to interact with UK industry and attend national and international conferences. The project can start at any time, but ideally no later than October 2019.

Closing Date: Applications accepted year round

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