I completed my undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Leeds, which included a year in industry working at TWI Ltd, a research engineering company specialising in bespoke manufacturing technologies and industrial materials testing.
My project, ‘Designing new radiation hard MAX phase coatings by understanding irradiation damage at the atomic scale’ (supervised by Dr Sarah Haigh, Dr Philipp Frankel & Prof Michael Preuss), involves a relatively novel class of materials known as ‘MAX phases’ and their potential application to the extreme environments encountered inside a fusion reactor.
MAX Phases consist of alternating atomic layers of ceramic and metals. These have the chemical formula Mn+1AXn, where M is an early transition metal, A is an A-group element, X is carbon or nitrogen, and n = 1, 2, or 3. Due to their unique crystal structure, MAX phases combine many attractive properties of both ceramics and metals. These can include high temperature stability, high stiffness, good electrical and thermal conductivity, fracture toughness, thermal shock resistance, and machinability.
Whilst certain MAX phases have shown promise in nuclear fission environments, their behaviour under fusion relevant temperatures and irradiation levels has not been explored until now. Additionally, the fundamental defect evolution mechanisms in MAX phases during particle irradiation is not fully understood. I will be utilising a range of high resolution techniques, including atomic resolution transmission electron microscopy, to understand radiation damage mechanisms in MAX phases with different compositions. I will use irradiation and characterisation facilities such as the Dalton Cumbria Facility; the University of Huddersfield’s MIAMI suite; the SuperSTEM Laboratory in Warrington and the University of Manchester. This will help to generate a better understanding of structure-property relationships and to optimize future materials with the goal of creating a truly radiation hard coating.