Design, Characterisation and Understanding of Oxidation-Resistant Tungsten Alloys for Nuclear Fusion Reactors (materials strand project)

Supervisor/s: Prof. Ping Xiao (University of Manchester) and Dr. Ying Chen (University of Manchester).

Tungsten is one of the leading candidates for plasma facing materials (PFMs) in nuclear fusion reactors to protect the vessels and superconducting magnets against the high thermal load and particle impact in the vicinity of the divertor. However, the poor oxidation resistance of pure tungsten raises an important safety concern in the event of an accidental loss of coolant together with simultaneous air ingress into the reactor vessel. In this scenario, tungsten would undergo fast oxidation with the release of volatile and radioactively activated tungsten oxides.

A strategical approach to mitigate this risk is to develop self-passivating tungsten alloys with the capability to form protective scales upon thermal exposure to oxygen-containing environment. A few studies in the literature have shown that formation of protective oxide scales could occur on tungsten through selective oxidation when certain types of alloying elements are added into the tungsten matrix. Nevertheless, the studies are extremely limited in quantity, breadth and depth, which significantly limits our understanding of the oxidation of the tungsten alloys and retards the subsequent development of oxidation-resistant tungsten alloys.

The project was conceived with above-mentioned factors in mind. Oxidation resistant tungsten alloys will be designed under the guidance of thermodynamic computations and verified by experiments. The oxidation behaviours of the alloys will be systematically studied in the conditions relevant to those in the event of loss of coolant and air ingress in fusion reactors. The project is expected to provide material solution for future nuclear fusion reactors.

The project will be mainly based in Manchester, but will likely to involve extensive industrial collaborations and travel for conferences from time to time.

The PhD project would be a great opportunity for the student to learn thermodynamic computations, material processing and material characterisation.

This project is offered by University of Manchester. For further information please contact: Ying Chen (ying.chen-2@manchester.ac.uk)