EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Materials for Demanding Environments

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials


The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral training in Materials for Demanding Environments will primarily address the Structural Integrity and Materials Behaviour priority area, and span into the Materials Technologies area. The CDT will target the oil & gas, aerospace and nuclear power industrial sectors, as well as the Defence sector.

Research and training will be undertaken on metals and alloys, composites, coatings and ceramics and the focus will be on understanding the mechanisms of material degradation. The Centre will instil graduates with an understanding of structural integrity assessment methodologies with the aim to designing and manufacturing materials that last longer within a framework that enables safe lifetimes to be accurately predicted.

A CDT is needed as the capability of current materials to withstand demanding environments is major constraint across a number of sectors; failure by corrosion alone is estimated to cost over $2.2 Trillion globally each year. Further understanding of the mechanisms of failure, and how these mechanisms interact with one another, would enable the safe and timely withdrawal of materials later in their life. New advanced materials and coatings, with quantifiable lifetimes, are integral to the UK's energy and manufacturing companies. Such technology will be vital in harvesting oil & gas safely from increasingly inaccessible reservoirs under high pressures, temperatures and sour environments. Novel, more cost-effective aero-engine materials are required to withstand extremely oxidative high temperature environments, leading to aircraft with increased fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and longer maintenance cycles. New lightweight alloys, ceramics and composites could deliver fuel efficiency in the aerospace and automotive sectors, and benefit personal and vehicle armour for blast protection. In the nuclear sector, new light water power plants demand tolerance to neutron radiation for extended durations, and Generation IV plants will need to withstand high operating temperatures.

It is vital to think beyond traditional disciplines, linking aspects of metallurgy, materials chemistry, non-destructive evaluation, computational modelling and environmental sciences. Research must involve not just the design and manufacturing of new materials, but the understanding of how to test and observe materials behaviour in demanding service environments, and to develop sophisticated models for materials performance and component lifetime assessment. The training must also include aspects of validation, risk assessment and sustainability.

Planned Impact

The CDT in Materials for Demanding Environments will impact on the EPSRC recognised shortage of highly trained scientists and engineers with appropriate skills in materials modelling, simulation, materials characterisation and interpretation to support UK industry. A sector skills assessment for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies predicted an overall net UK requirement for labour of about 232,000 jobs during 2010-2016, including 114,000 engineers, scientists and technologists.

The cohort of doctoral students who enrol on this CDT will benefit from the supervision and guidance of 40 of the University of Manchester's leading academics, comprised of many world experts as well as emerging leaders. However the training will not take place in an academic vacuum, but will be highly integrated with industry, with our commercial partners taking leading roles in shaping and delivering the training and research programme.

There will be a taught academic programme for the initial six-months. What is novel about this CDT is that we propose to employ a teaching fellow to work closely with the partner companies to harvest industrial exemplars for use in the teaching modules, giving the training 'real-world' significance. Additionally, the industrial partners will be invited to assist in the delivery of teaching, for instance through lectures on "Materials Challenges". Problem based Structural Integrity group work will also be used to give the students proficiency in techniques relevant to studying, imaging and testing of materials across a range of demanding environments typical of our target sectors.

There will be wider economic and societal benefit through linking this proposed CDT with other relevant centres to establish of a 'Federation of Engineering Materials CDTs'. Interactions will include the sharing of best practice and the sharing of relevant teaching material. Doctoral students will benefit from this by playing a leading role in the shaping of this Federation, with the wider student cohort enhancing peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Students will additionally participate in public engagement to disseminate their research to the wider community, benefitting society more generally. Industry and Academia, and society in general, will benefit through this wider network of early career stage scientists and engineers as it will build foundations for successful collaborations in the future.

Industrial partners will benefit from engagement with this CDT in three ways. 1) They will be able to play a leading role in the PhD research projects, engaging in research of direct benefit to their business interests, and gaining access to the pool of academic knowledge and world class facilities of the University of Manchester.2) Each student will have an industrial supervisor, and will be encouraged to carry out part, or all, of their research with our industrial partners. This will allow companies to directly train, mentor and assess potential employees. 3) Through interaction with the wider student cohort it enables companies to shape the next generation of scientists and engineers to the needs of industry, and this could act as a vehicle for recruitment for the companies.


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