Continuous and reliable energy generation in future nuclear fusion reactors will depend on the development of materials able to withstand a very harsh environment. This PhD position will nurture a multidisciplinary materials scientist to advance the field of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME).

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The environment within nuclear fusion reactors is very demanding. The fusion reaction between deuterium and tritium releases approximately 16.6MeV of energy within a plasma, subdivided between a high-energy neutron (~14MeV) and a charged helium nucleus. Neutron irradiation is particularly damaging to the high temperature superconductors (HTSs) in the reactor. A shield, made of W material, is therefore manufactured with the aim to protect the HTS from neutron radiation, as well as thermal fatigue loads from the plasma. Joining W shielding components has proven challenging, due to formation of brittle intermetallic phases and high residual stresses. Consequently, a successful joining methodology has not yet been developed.

This 3-year PhD position will develop an effective joint for W components, utilising a coating interlayer deposited by Physical Vapour Deposition and diffusion bonding as joining method. The chemistry of the coating interlayer and diffusion bonding parameters will be elegantly designed by an Integrated Computational Material Engineering (ICME) approach, through a combination of high-throughput thermodynamic predictions (Thermo-Calc, CALPHAD), Finite Element Analysis (Abaqus) and experimental validations. The work will involve a tight collaboration with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the industrial sponsor, throughout the project.

At a glance

  • Application deadline31 May 2022
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date30 Sep 2022
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSATM275

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first- or second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry or a related discipline.

The candidate should be self-motivated and have excellent analytical, reporting and communication skills.


This is a fully-funded opportunity.

Salary of £18,000 per year, for 3 years, plus £20,000 budget for materials and travel.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:

Name: Dr Francesco Fanicchia

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form.