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Research Studentship in Solid Mechanics and Materials Engineering

Project: Modelling Dust Formation in a Fusion Device

4 year D.Phil. studentship

Supervisors: Prof. Ed Tarleton, Dr. Yevhen Zayachuk (UKAEA) & Dr Anna Widdowson (UKAEA)

The student undertaking this project will be based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) and will also be a member of the Solid Mechanics and Materials Engineering Group (SMMEG) in Engineering Science with joint supervision from both organisations.

Dust particles are commonly found in JET, and are expected to present a safety concern for ITER and future fusion devices, as dust can lead to an explosion and vessel damage in the case of a loss of coolant accident and water leak, and could pose a radiological hazard if dust escapes the vessel due to retained tritium. Several mechanisms of dust formation are known, including 1) fracture and delamination of - parts of the deposited films and 2) remobilization of solidified droplets of molten metal (generally beryllium) formed during off-normal events, such as disruptions. During both normal operation and in accident conditions, these mechanisms are governed at a fundamental level by the bulk mechanical properties of the deposits (strength and toughness) and adhesion of dust particles and deposits to their substrates.

This project is to develop a finite-element model able to accurately simulate and predict the fracture and delamination of deposit layers and of delamination of redeposited particles. The model will use thermal loads from the plasma and resulting temperature distributions in the plasma-facing components to calculate the resulting stresses induced. Using known values of interfacial and bulk strength and toughness, will allow determination of when and how the deposit films breaks and interfacial decohesion occurs, and thus to simulate how the dust in a fusion reactor is forming.

This model will be useful for analysis and prediction of behaviour of dust in ITER, and as such useful in development of operational scenarios. It can also be useful in the design activities for DEMO as well as STEP. It is important to note that methodology to be developed, while validated using ITER material mix from the JET ITER-like wall, is expected to be of general usage and as such will be able to tackle other candidate materials and material mixes.

This project will be performed in conjunction with another PhD project which is focusing on experimental studies of the interfacial properties of deposits and melt droplets. Therefore, required quantitative material properties will be provided to the model developed in this project.


This studentship is jointly funded through the Culham Center for Fusion Energy (CCFE) and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fusion Center for Doctoral Training (CDT) and is open to Home students (full award – home fees plus stipend). Full details of the eligibility requirements can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website.

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 supervisor to see whether the flexibility might be available for you.

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for Home students (c. £8290 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15285 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further three years.

Candidate Requirements

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

  • A first class honours degree in Engineering, Physics or Materials Science
  • Excellent mathematical and analytical skills
  • Excellent English written and spoken communication skills
  • Ability to work collaboratively as part of a team
  • Strong enthusiasm for computational material science

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  • Knowledge of FEM and Fracture Mechanics
  • Familiarity with Abaqus
  • Ability to program in Fortran

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof. Ed Tarleton ( or Dr. Yevhen Zayachuk ( or Dr. Anna Widdowson (

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 21ENGMM_ETUKAEA in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon on 22 January 2021 (In line with the late January admissions deadline, set by the University)

Start date: October 2021