Processing and mechanical properties of vanadium alloys for fusion reactors – Materials Strand project

Supervisor: Russell Goodall (University of Sheffield)

The demands placed on the materials used in a fusion reactor are extreme, both in the levels of performance demanded, and in the breadth of properties over which such demands extend. Frequently when selecting materials, there are few known options that can meet these requirements, and, while the use of established materials brings benefits in terms of supply chains and the body of knowledge to aid designers, lesser known materials are sometimes among the few available options. For some parts of the reactor, the requirements have encouraged the consideration and development of alloys based on vanadium.

While vanadium alloys are not commonly used in other applications, they offer some attractive benefits for fusion, such as a having a low neutron cross section (reducing radiation heating and embrittlement due to helium generation), high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion, and low reactivity with the liquid lithium used in some designs. There are still important areas we know less about however, particularly when considering the many possible ways to alloy vanadium with other elements to improve and adjust properties.

For example, the structure and properties of vanadium alloys are sensitive to their processing history, and can become brittle under the effects of impurities or radiation; it is vital to understand the processing response, and to avoid such brittle failure. These are also influenced by the alloy composition, for example with additions to trap interstitial impurities, or change the response to processing. Vanadium can be highly alloyed, to the extent that it is a significant constituent in some multicomponent (“High Entropy”) alloys examined for fusion use, but the range of alloys between have not been explored.

In this project we will experimentally investigate known and novel compositions of vanadium alloys. Samples will be produced and taken through experimental simulation of possible processing routes at laboratory scale. We will then investigate the microstructure of the materials formed, and their mechanical behaviour. Where promising alloys are found, there will be an opportunity to explore the effects of irradiation, interacting with other research underway in the group, looking at the effects of radiation damage on the structure of one of the proposed vanadium alloys for fusion use.

The project would be mainly based in Sheffield. We would anticipate there being opportunities for short term travel nationally and internationally, to other research facilities, collaborators, and conferences. These would not be compulsory, and engagement with such opportunities would be determined both by the direction of the research, and the situation of the researcher themselves.

This project is offered by University of Sheffield. For further information please contact: Russell Goodall (

This project may be compatible with part time study, please contact the project supervisors if you are interested in exploring this.