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Research Studentship in ‘Thermo-mechanical behaviour of TRISO coatings’

Research Studentship in ‘Thermo-mechanical behaviour of TRISO coatings’

3.5-year DPhil studentship 

Supervisors: Prof Dong (Lilly) Liu and Prof Clive Siviour

Since its invention in the United Kingdom as part of the Dragon reactor project in 1960s, Tristructural isotropic (TRISO) coated nuclear fuel particles are playing an increasingly important role in the nuclear energy production. TRISO is designed to have remarkable fission product retention capabilities and excellent high-temperature integrity, hence it is considered potentially ‘the safest fuel’. They are to be used in the high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs), specifically the Gen IV advanced reactor technology selected by the UK as the centrepiece of its Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development & Demonstration Programme.

This DPhil project is co-funded by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) UK who plays a key role in developing the design of a high temperature micro modular reactor, a type of AMR suited to UK industrial demands including hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel production. The primary focus of this PhD project is on the fundamental study of the local and inter-layer properties of the TRISO coatings. The student will design and conduct micro-mechanical tests to obtain the interfacial strength including tensile and shear strengths at the coating interfaces in various types of TRISO particles. The local properties of each individual layer will also be generated using micro-mechanical testing as modelling input. Residual stresses, generated due to manufacturing processes, will be characterized by focussed ion beam-digital image correlation method combined with diffraction (either lab-based diffractometer or synchrotron X-ray diffraction). During the project, thermal conductivity equipment will be made available to the student to generate line-scans and maps of the local thermal conductivity of each layer and across the interfaces. The data produced in this project will be used to support thermo-mechanical modelling of TRISO coatings.


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_DL in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon 1 March 2024

Start date: October 2024