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PhD Studentship in Physics – AWE / EPSRC iCASE

Department of Physics, West Cambridge

University of Cambridge, Trinity Ln, Cambridge, UK


  • Posted on: 04th Oct 2021
  • Funding amount: Funding Available
  • Funding for: EU Students, International Students, UK Students
  • REF: KA28369
  • Closes: 16th May 2022
  • Hours: Full Time

EPSRC iCASE Studentship-Energetic Reaction Thresholds

Fixed-term: Funding for this post is available for 3.5 years in the first instance. This studentship could begin on any of the available 2022 start dates (Lent, Easter or Michaelmas). The award covers tuition fees (for UK students) and provides a tax-free stipend. Applications are invited for a joint AWE/EPSRC iCASE funded PhD project in the area of understanding energetic materials hazard behaviour.

AWE undertake a range of small-scale safety tests on energetic materials. Data and results generated from tests are used in wide ranging applications, including material down selection, characterisation, qualification, evidence for safety cases and assessments, provision of parameters for model calibration and validation. Underlying physics of the current tests are poorly understood. Due to concerns about read-across with legacy data, tests have not kept pace with developments in diagnostic capabilities. When new results do not correspond to historic trends or expectation, existing testing capabilities are not particularly well suited to investigate causes of discrepancies. Preliminary investigations conducted at the University of Cambridge have demonstrated impact experiments instrumented to measure force-histories, direct measurement of (mechanical) energy absorbed leading up to reaction, various spectroscopies to interrogate chemical reactions that occur and their local environment. Using diagnostics for mechanical-power (intensity of insult) versus time-to-reaction is a route to understanding reaction-thresholds, making contact with modelling and simulation. The PhD’s goal is measuring fundamental properties and the framework generation of understanding to describe them.

Key challenges the student will need to consider include:

1) Experiment Design. With intense conditions of temperatures up to 5000 K, Pressures in GPa and timescales of the order microseconds. Experiments need to be reproducible and appropriate quantitative measurements are recorded. 2) Understanding Results. Conventional approach to hazard test outcomes is that they are stochastic. If so, what statistical framework is most appropriate for maximum information extraction? 3) Numerous candidates for so-called hotspot mechanisms have been identified. Which is most likely to be dominant in a given scenario is still an open question. Following the scientific method, design discriminatory experiments to inform debate.

The student will be based in the Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, in a friendly 14 person Research Group. With access to state-of-the-art equipment, the research will build upon many years of prior art in this area. The student will also interact heavily with AWE researchers, benefitting from discussion, insights and feedback from AWE practitioners and broadly through interaction with academic and industry partners.

EPSRC iCASE studentships are fully-funded (fees and maintenance) for eligible UK students. The applicant should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a good 2:1 and a Masters degree in physics, materials science, or a related subject.

To make an application, follow the procedure outlined on the University website https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/how-do-i-apply, selecting the course PhD in Physics and making sure to mention the name of Dr David Williamson and the Surface, Microstructure and Fracture (SMF) Group.

It is IMPORTANT that, when submitting your application, that you notify Dr David Williamson (e-mail: dmw28@cam.ac.uk).

Due to the nature of the work undertaken by AWE, University Personnel engaged in any Research Project shall normally be required to meet special nationality rules. To be eligible, the individual may be required to undergo security clearances and unless otherwise authorised should normally be a British Citizen as defined in the British Nationalities Act 1981.

If you have any questions about this vacancy please e-mail Dr David Williamson ( dmw28@cam.ac.uk).

Please quote reference KA28369 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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