PhD Projects at Manchester

These projects are run by The University of Manchester. Application information can be found in our how to apply section.  Please contact the relevant person below before applying. Click on the titles below to see contact details and more information.

  • Computational fluid dynamics modelling of sprays of liquids into gases and vapours

    Contact: Prof Hector Iacovides  


    This PhD project addresses the kinematic and thermal behaviour of sprays of liquids into gases, with a particular focus on the dynamics of the type of pressurisers used to control the operating pressure in pressurised water nuclear power stations. The main objective is the development of a computational model of sprays that is capable of reproducing the heat transfer and pressure response of the pressuriser to a given water spray input (total mass of injected water and droplet size distribution), or to a given heating power input. The CFD model will be based on the approach to spray modelling previously developed at the University of Manchester in which the spray is represented by solving modelled transport equations for the first four moments of the droplet size distribution function. This allows for a more computationally efficient solution than the traditional stochastic type of discrete droplet modelling. A substantial aspect of the PhD will be to validate the spray model against experimental data from academic literature and from the results of spray experiments at the University of Manchester. In the later stages, the PhD will include a placement at Rolls-Royce, where the model will be implemented on the local IT system and applied to geometries and conditions of industrial relevance.

    This PhD will involve a computational study to develop new models of poly-disperse sprays of liquids into gaseous volumes. The project aims to improve heat transfer predictions in multiphase flows by developing and validating models against experimental data. The effect of droplet size distribution and its dependence on evaporation, condensation, agglomeration and break-up will be examined in the light of the subsequent effects on heat transfer in the fluid. The computational work will extend the development of earlier models created at the University of Manchester, implementing moment-based spray models into a CFD code and validating the model against existing test data. The model will then be used to simulate experimental facilities that have been used to produce data of relevance to pressurised water reactor (PWR) conditions. The outcome from the PhD will be a validated model that can make predictions of the cooling behaviour of sprays used in PWRs; insights thereby obtained will feed forward into the optimisation of future nuclear applications within Rolls-Royce Nuclear.



  • Experimental study of sprays of liquids into gases and vapours

    Contact: Dr Andrea Cioncolini


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project***


    This PhD project addresses the kinematic and thermal behaviour of sprays of liquids into vapours and gases, with a particular focus on the dynamics of the type of pressurisers used to control the operating pressure in pressurised water nuclear power stations. In particular this project will involve an experimental study of liquid sprays using two test facilities operated by the Thermo-Fluid Group at the School of MACE–University of Manchester: one low-pressure facility with state-of-the-art flow diagnostic capability, and one high-pressure and high-temperature facility that can generate unique data at nuclear reactor prototypical operating conditions. The industrial sponsor of this project is Rolls-Royce Nuclear, and the relevance of this research work covers current operating nuclear reactors, future designs (notably small modular pressurized water nuclear reactor systems), and naval propulsion.

    Irrespective of being extensively used in nuclear power stations, the actual thermal-fluid dynamics of pressurizers is very little understood at the moment. In particular, the fine details of the liquid atomization as a function of the atomizer design, the fine details of the dynamics of the droplets population and in particular the condensation onto falling droplets and their effect on the pressure response of the system are not known at the moment with the detail needed to calibrate and fine-tune numerical models for system analysis, deign and optimization. These are the gaps that this project will address.




  • Computational Studies of Actinyl Peroxide Nanoclusters

    Contact: Prof Nikolas Kaltsoyannis


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project***


    Detailed understanding of the formation, stability and properties of actinide compounds is central to the safe storage of nuclear wastes and the clean-up of actinide contaminated sites. The linear dioxo U(VI) moiety UO22+ (uranyl) is ubiquitous in the environmental chemistry of uranium, and uranyl peroxide compounds and nanoparticles, which feature the peroxide ligand as connecting bridges between UO22+ units, are very stable species, of relevance to the migration of actinides in the natural environment. For example, leakage from nuclear waste storage tanks or accidents such as at Fukushima-Daiichi provide conditions where these nanoparticles are likely to form (e.g. from incorporation of peroxide via radiolysis of water), and they may be implicated in the enhanced corrosion of nuclear fuel in seawater.
    The fascinating and beautiful family of uranyl peroxide nanoparticles provides a rich source of information on these systems; more than 40 of them have been isolated experimentally. These compounds are labelled according to the number of uranyl polyhedra they possess; U20, U24, U28, U32, and up to U60 species are known. Computational investigations of these systems are scarce and challenging, holding back our understanding of their properties. Thus, the focus of the proposed research will be on gaining the detailed understanding required via quantum chemical computational study. Beginning with small systems containing only two uranium atoms, the project will increase in scope, complexity and computational difficulty to study An20, An24 (An = U, Np, Pu) and U60 compounds, using state-of-the-art methodology and analysis techniques, building on our very recent prediction that a plutonyl peroxide “Matryoshka” (Russian Doll) nanocluster has the highest ground state spin in a molecular cluster




  • Characterising Containment Weld Integrity for Product Storage Cans

    Contact: Dr Dirk Engelberg


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project***


    This exciting PhD project combines the application of engineering knowledge with application of the latest in-situ microstructure characterisation and simulation techniques, to provide underpinning scientific evidence for optimised weld microstructure integrity. Techniques for closure welding of stainless steel storage cans, routinely used as containment barrier for nuclear products, will be assessed. These cans must be resistant to normal operation conditions as well as accident scenarios, such as internal pressurisation and drops from height. It is therefore important to better understand the effect of residual stresses/strains, and the presence of closure weld damage to identify possible life-limiting material parameters.  For example, what level of mechanical damage of the cans that can be tolerated, for how long, or do they need to be immediately re-worked is an important aspect of safe storage.


    Finite element (FE) models for simulating these events do not have a good description of the material properties of these welds. This project therefore seeks to better understand the link between mechanical performance, weld microstructure, and stress/strain conditions after performance testing, to optimise current FE models. The overarching aim is to provide weld process attributes for optimised microstructure control. A series of welds using different weld process parameters will be subjected to state-of-the-art metallographic performance assessment techniques, by combining optical and electron microscopy techniques, X-ray diffraction (stress/strain, phase analysis), x-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT), and in-situ process control characterisation. This PhD project aims to provide novel insight and data to better understand and optimise relevant joining process microstructures. 

  • Characterising the role of diverse nuclear technologies for a zero-carbon UK

    Contact: Prof Kevin Anderson


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project*** 


    This project will explore the potential and timely role of nuclear energy in contributing to the mitigation challenges posed by the Paris climate change agreement. Responding to these challenges will require a fundamental transformation of energy systems across the more industrially advanced nations. Moreover, the carbon budgets accompanying the Agreement prescribe a timeframe to full decarbonisation of energy supply of little more thirty years.


    With a specific focus on the UK, but considered within a global context, the project will characterise the role of diverse reactor designs and fuel cycles for a zero-carbon UK, from traditional light water reactors for electricity generation to high temperature reactors for hydrogen production for aviation.


    The project will entail interdisciplinary research, developing and assessing quantitative scenarios. Candidates will require an ability to understand the technical capabilities of alternative nuclear options and the energy systems with which they interact. The research will contribute to the Tyndall Centre and Dalton Centre’s energy-system analysis, with the successful candidate expected to liaise with colleagues across a wide portfolio of disciplines and be able to communicate their work and findings to non-specialists.


  • Radiation effects in bespoke glass formulations

    Contact: Dr Laura Leay


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project*** 


    The decommissioning of Sellafield site represents many technological challenges, including dealing with the radioactive waste that is generated. Tanks that contained highly radioactive waste will be washed out and the resulting liquid will be incorporated into glass. Although Sellafield has been using this method of waste immobilisation for decades, the waste generated from cleaning out these tanks will have different properties to the waste they have dealt with in the past. A new type of glass formulation has been developed by the National nuclear Laboratory to immobilise this waste. To date this has used non-radioactive surrogates to determine a suitable glass composition; the performance of this material under a radiation field is not yet known. This will be the focus of this project.


    Changes in the structure of the glass can be characterised and atomistic simulations can be used to provide an in-depth understanding of glass behaviour, validated using the experimental results. The non-radioactive samples that have been produced include large crystal structures so special attention can be given to the interface between the crystalline and glassy regions. In addition, the interplay of the different elements within the glass can be determined by creating samples with fewer components. The effect of radiation on corrosion of the glass can also be investigated and this information will be vital to underpin the safety assessment of a geological disposal facility.


    ***This project is based at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility near Whitehaven in west Cumbria; it is not based in Manchester***

  • Effects of U-content and texture on the properties of (U,Zr) alloy research reactor fuel

    Contact: Dr Joel Turner 


    ***Sorry we are no longer taking applications for this project*** 


    ***Due to security restrictions this project is ideally for UK Nationals***


    This PhD project aims to explore the feasibility of increasing the uranium content in research reactor fuels, and to investigate the effects this may have on metallographic texture and microstructure, as well as mechanical and thermo-physical properties. If possible, the project will utilise ion beam irradiation for preliminary studies of the irradiation performance of high-uranium-content metallic fuels. Specifically, this project will involve the manufacture of a range of uranium-zirconium alloys using depleted uranium at the Nuclear Fuel Centre of Excellence (NFCE), based in the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester (School of MACE, UoM). Material will be manufactured using arc melting, and cold-worked to introduce texture. The resulting texture and microstructure will then be characterised for a range of compositions, alongside bulk mechanical and thermal property measurements. The industrial sponsor for this project is Rolls-Royce Nuclear, and the relevance of this research covers both current research reactor technology as well as future reactor concepts which may be commercially relevant. 

    Research reactors often employ a metallic fuel form with a limited uranium content. Difficultly in manufacturing fuels with high U-contents and uncertainty in their in-reactor behaviour has limited research in this area to date.

    Future test reactor designs could be optimised if higher weight percent alloys had predictable through-life behaviour.

    Specifically, this project will address two key areas of understanding for uranium-zirconium alloy fuels for a wide range of uranium weight percent compositions; metallographic texture response and irradiation performance.

    The effects of varying texture and grain structure on fuel performance for high uranium weight percent alloys are currently relatively poorly understood, and this has impacts on the manufacturing steps required and the structural integrity of the reactor. Irradiation performance for high weight percent uranium alloys is also relatively poorly understood, and can be investigated using more easily accessible surrogates for neutron irradiation, such and protons and heavy ions.  


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