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Information about Research Studentship in Deformation and fracture of TRISO fuel particles at Department of Engineering Science at Oxford, recruiting now

Research Studentship in Deformation and fracture of TRISO fuel particles

3.5-year DPhil studentship 

Supervisors: Prof Dong (Lilly) Liu and Prof Emilio Martinez-Paneda 

The proposed PhD project will focus on an Advanced Reactor fuel form called TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) fuel. Each TRISO particle has a spherical uranium-based kernel (although this project only studies particles with surrogate kernels of Alumina or Zirconia) that is surrounded by four coating layers made of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide (SiC). These coatings work together to prevent the release of radioactive fission products from the kernel. This PhD project will be performed under the direct supervision of Prof. Dong (Lilly) Liu and Prof. Emilio Martinez-Paneda of Oxford University and co-supervised by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

In this project, you will have the opportunity to be trained and become a proficient user of a range of advanced experimental techniques. For instance, you will learn how to use in-situ X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT), a non-destructive imaging technique, to perform crushing experiments of TRISO particles over a range of temperatures, thereby achieving a better understanding of the deformation behaviour of the particle fuel, crack initiation/propagation and failure mechanisms in relation to test temperature. Finite element (FE) modelling using FE tools such as Abaqus, (or) Ansys, (or) COMSOL is optional to validate the experimental findings. High-temperature micromechanical experiments will also be conducted to determine the local properties, and potentially the creep behaviours, of the SiC layer as well as of the TRISO layer interfaces using in-situ and ex-situ micromechanical testing techniques. It is also possible that you will be contributing to international round-robin/bench marking exercises that aim to standardise the sub-sized specimen testing program. In addition, you will have the opportunity to present your work at international conferences/workshops.

Finally, as a part of your graduate experience, you will have the opportunity to spend some time as a visiting or exchange researcher at the collaborating organisation Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) at Chalk River, Ontario, where you would get exposure to applied R&D environment related to advanced reactors and contribute to ongoing activities aligned with your research.


This studentship is open to Home students (full award – home fees plus stipend). There is very limited flexibility to support international students. If you are an international student and want to apply for this studentship, please contact the supervisors to see whether the flexibility might be available for you.

Award Value

University course fees are covered at the home student rate. The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) will be c. £18,622 for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two and half years.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • A first-class honours degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Materials Science or Physics
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English
  • Strong mathematical and analytical skills
  • Willingness to travelling to international collaborators and science facilities for experimental work (expenses will be covered).

The following skills are also highly desirable:

  • Strong laboratory-based skills
  • Programming skills (Matlab, Python, or similar)

Applicants with a good 2.1 degree are also encouraged to apply if they can demonstrate excellent laboratory skills through previous research or an undergraduate project.

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to and

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria.

Details are available on the course page of the University website.

Please quote 24ENGMM_DL2 in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon on 01 March 2024

Start date: October 2024