Here you can find descriptions of projects currently being researched within the group:

Current projects

Alessandro Piglione - Microstructures and fatigue behaviour of Ni single crystals made by casting and additive manufacturing

Title: Microstructures and fatigue behaviour of Ni single crystals made by casting and additive manufacturing

Investigator: Alessandro Piglione

Supervisor: Dr. Minh-Son Pham

Co-supervisor: Prof. Fionn Dunne

Industrial partner: Beijing Institute for Aeronautical Materials (BIAM)


Abstract: Nickel single-crystal components play a key role in the operation of modern jet engines. Understanding their fatigue behaviour at elevated temperatures leads to significant improvements in their reliability, thereby enabling the full exploitation of their potential for an improved efficiency. Whilst most of the previous studies focus on uniaxial fatigue testing, fundamental studies will be carried out in this project in order to understand the fatigue behaviour of nickel single-crystals in complex multi-axial loading conditions. In particular, the main efforts will be directed towards (1) understanding cyclic deformation mechanisms in high-temperature rotating-bending fatigue conditions, and (2) assessing the influence of surface notches on the components’ fatigue life. In addition, this project will explore Ni single-crystal fabrication via additive manufacturing. Solidification microstructures and deformation behaviours of additive manufactured parts will be investigated and compared with those of the components fabricated by casting.

Fatigue striations in a nickel single-crystal after a rotating-bending fatigue test.
Fatigue striations in a nickel single-crystal after a rotating-bending fatigue test.

Alexander Bergsmo - Experimental and Modelling Methodologies for Investigation of Fatigue Crack Nucleation

Title: Experimental and Modelling Methodologies for Investigation of Fatigue Crack Nucleation in Agglomerate-containing Poly-crystalline Nickel Superalloys Fabricated by Powder Metallurgy.

Investigator: Alexander Bergsmo

Supervisor: Prof Fionn Dunne

Duration: 36 Months

Powder metallurgy has recently become the preferred method for producing nickel-superalloy turbine disks. An unavoidable side-effect of powder metallurgy is the propensity to include non-metallic agglomerates in the nickel matrix. These inclusions may create a locally active stress field which may drive the nucleation of cracks. Recent studies have investigated different criteria for crack nucleation at room temperature. The real working conditions of a jet engine turbine are at high temperature and work remains to be done on crack nucleation in such an environment. This project aims to investigate the criteria for which cracks appear around an inclusion subject to high temperature conditions by using experimental and modelling techniques.

Ahmed Belkarty - Nucleation kinetics of Lead-free solder joints

TITLE:  Armin Daszki - Nucleation kinetics of Lead-free solder joints


Project title: Nucleation kinetics of Lead-free solder joints

Investigator: Armin Daszki

Supervisors: Dr. Christopher Gourlay

Duration: 01/10/2016 – 30/09/2020


Project Description:

Lead-free solders, which have been developed to substitute lead based alloys, suffer greatly from anisotropy compared to the original tin-lead alloys due to the tetragonal crystal structure of the majority component, βSn. Additionally βSn suffers from nucleating difficulties usually leading to a single nucleation event which results in a single βSn grain, cyclic-twinned βSn grains, and/or interlaced-twinned βSn grain morphology. This nucleation-difficulty phenomena is seen clearly when repeatedly melting and solidifying Sn-based alloys and measuring the nucleation undercooling. The stochastic value of the nucleation undercooling can vary (depending on sample purity and size) from 45K to 80K, this is in stark comparison to the melting which is seen to always happen at a fixed repeatable value. Nucleation kinetics will be studied in lead-free solders, with and without soldering substrates, in order to understand fundamental nucleation laws with experimental data, as well as the implication of nucleation onset on the resulting microstructure. By understanding the nucleation phenomena of βSn in lead free solders we seek to control the microstructure sufficiently to alter the mechanical, and electrical properties of solder joints to improve reliability of electrical devices. Finally, the gained knowledge of nucleation in the studied system will be generalised and extended to any system. 




Bogdan Dovgyy - Use of Machine Learning to design alloys for additive manufacturing

Title: Use of Machine Learning to design alloys for additive manufacturing

Investigator: Bogdan Dovgyy

Supervisor: Dr. Minh-Son Pham

Co-supervisor: Prof. David Dye

Abstract: Additive manufacturing (AM) has unique characteristics (e.g., rapid solidification and thermal cycles) that are very different to other processes. Most of existing alloys were initially designed for slow solidification processes, not for AM. This is partly responsible for unsolved metallurgical and mechanical performance challenges in metal additive manufacturing, increasing the barrier for the full realisation of AM. To search for alloys suitable for AM, we have developed key criteria that successfully assisted the selection of a highly printable high entropy alloy. This PhD study project aims at developing an algorithm that integrates the criteria into a platform of machine learning (ML) and thermodynamics phase diagram to assist the search for new alloys for AM process. The printability (in particular, the microstructure and mechanical properties) of a selected alloy manufactured by selective laser melting to verify the effectiveness of the developed ML platform. Subsequently, the relationships between the alloy microstructures and process parameters will be studied to improve the ML platform and enable the effective tailoring of microstructures.

Figure 1. (a) Alloy development cycle for additive manufacturing, (b) scanning strategy-microstructure relationship of a selected multi-component alloy.
Figure 1. (a) Alloy development cycle for additive manufacturing, (b) scanning strategy-microstructure relationship of a selected multi-component alloy.

Dr Ioannis Bantounas – Effect of Microstructure & Micro-Mechanisms Responsible for High Temperature Mechanical Properties of Co-Based Superalloys

Investigator: Dr Ioannis Bantounas

Supervisors: Prof. David Dye

Collaborators: Dr Mark Hardy, Rolls-Royce

Duration: 01/08/2015 – 01/08/2017


The discovery of the gamma prime L12 phase in the Co-Al-W ternary system has enabled the development of Co-based alloys with increased high temperature mechanical performance. Cobalt exhibits a higher melting point than nickel, the base material of current high temperature engineering alloy applications. Co-superalloys thus promise a higher upper limit for high temperature mechanical performance.

Applied to an industrial context, development of these alloys could realise increase gas turbine inlet temperatures. This in turn would result in a positive impact on engine efficiency, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The current project is aimed at understanding the relationship between microstructure and mechanical performance of this new class of alloys. A particular focus is placed on the high temperature dwell fatigue crack growth behaviour and the micro-mechanisms governing crack advance under such loading and environmental conditions.

Ioannis Bantounas
Backscattered electron micrograph showing secondary and tertiary gamma prime precipitates in a Co-based superalloy.

Jana Smutna - Understanding the role of hydrogen-dislocation interactions...


Title: Understanding the role of hydrogen-dislocation interactions in the corrosion and hydrogen uptake of irradiated zirconium fuel cladding alloys

Supervisor: Mark Wenman

Co-supervisor: Andrew Horsfield, Adrian Sutton

Industrial partner: Carrie Miszkowska (Rolls Royce) 


Abstract: Zirconium alloys are predominantly used in nuclear fuel cladding. The lifetime of these alloys is limited by the pickup of hydrogen from the surrounding water coolant, and subsequent formation of hydrides. In addition to the alloy composition, the defects, dislocations and dislocation loops caused by radiation damage affect the hydrogen pickup fraction and corrosion rate. The mechanistic understanding of the interactions between hydrogen and radiation damage (especially dislocation loops) requires computational modelling techniques able to simulate thousands of atoms. The empirical potentials available at the moment for the Zr-H system (most notably EAM) do not provide sufficient accuracy, and DFT calculations are too slow for use on the system sizes required. The aim of this project is a development of DFTB (Density Functional Tight Binding) potential for the Zr-H system, where electronic structure is included explicitly. This should provide a model much faster than DFT codes, but more accurate and more transferable than empirical potentials. This will allow for modelling of hydrogen in irradiated zirconium alloys.

Jedsada Lertthanasarn - Multiscale hierarchical lattices: Crystal plasticity-based FEM modelling

Project Title                       Multiscale hierarchical lattices: Crystal plasticity-based FEM modelling

Investigator                       Jedsada Lertthanasarn

Supervisor                          Dr. Minh-Son Pham

Co-Supervisor                   Prof. Fionn Dunne

Duration                              36 months


The advent of additive manufacturing technology enables the fabrication of intricate lattices of a wide range of materials from polymers, metals to ceramics. Tailoring lattice structures can lead to the generation of lightweight materials with improved functionality. Previously reported studies on lattice materials had only focused on lattices with single orientations (analogous to single crystals). Such single-oriented lattices suffer substantial drops in load-bearing capacity. Inspired by the hardening mechanisms by tailoring crystal microstructures (such as grains, precipitates and phases) in metallurgy, we design macro lattices (i.e. meta-crystals) that mimic crystal microstructures to bring the rich knowledge in metallurgy to lattice design. The application of this approach to metals leads to the generation of multi-scale hierarchical lattices over wide length scales: from Å up to mm and beyond. This PhD study project focuses on using crystal plasticity-based finite element methods (CP-FEM) to simulate the deformation behaviour of hierarchical lattices. Together with experimental study, this CP-FEM approach will offer an integrated platform to develop hierarchical lattice materials with designed properties specifically tailored for desired energy absorption and load transfer.

Experiment versus FEM simulation of the deformation behaviour of an FCC lattice

Minsoo Jin - Rapid solidification microstructure formation in cubic and non-cubic alloys fabricated by selective laser melting

Title: Rapid solidification microstructure formation in cubic and non-cubic alloys fabricated by selective laser melting

Investigator: Minsoo Jin

Supervisor: Dr. Minh-Son Pham

Co-supervisor: Dr. Chris Gourlay

Rapid solidification in additive manufacturing (AM) process results in unique microstructures such as fine cells, epitaxial crystal growth and meta-stable phases. Such microstructures often lead to undesired mechanical properties of AM alloys (e.g., anisotropy, strong but less ductile and shorter fatigue/creep lives), making alloys fabricated by AM process less favourable in load-bearing application compared to other manufacturing processes. Understanding how crystals grow in rapid cooling and how they follow up with sudden changes in solidification direction will enable an effective control of microstructure to obtain desirable mechanical properties for high load-bearing application. The aim of the PhD project is to study the crystal formation in rapid cooling with sudden changes in solidification direction and subsequent microstructure evolution of both cubic and non-cubic alloys. Cubic crystals (namely, a Nickel superalloy and CoCrFeMnNi high entropy alloy) and a non-cubic alloy will be printed with different scanning paths by selective laser melting and examined by high resolution scanning/transmission electron microscopy to gain in-depth understandings of microstructure formation in AM.

Minsoo Jin
Side-branching of cells due to the 90° change in the heat flux in a cubic crystal fabricated by selective laser melting

Samuel Rogers - Alloy Conceptual Design and the Fundamental Mechanisms of Galling & Wear in the PWR Environment

Title: Alloy Conceptual Design and the Fundamental Mechanisms of Galling & Wear in the PWR Environment

Investigator: Samuel Rogers

Supervisors: Prof. David Dye and Prof. Fionn Dunne

Collaborators: Dr. David Stewart, Rolls Royce plc.

Duration: 9/2017 - 3/2021

Project Description:

Hardfacing alloys have been used for many years in components where surface degradation is of concern, particularly when coupled with extreme environments; be it high wear, high temperature, corrosive or erosive environments or a combination of these. Of particular interest is the use of hardfacings in valve seatings within the PWR environment. This is a high temperature, highly corrosive environment in which wear is of critical concern. The wear mechanism of most concern is galling which can result in catastrophic surface degradation and valve seizure. Galling is characterised by plastic deformation of surfaces resulting in the formation of protrusions on the contact surfaces. Although this much is known, the exact mechanisms by which it may occur are little known, as are the factors affecting it.


Although further research into the mechanisms of galling are necessary, some alloys are known to have greater galling resistance than others. One such alloy is Stellite 6, a cobalt-based alloy containing carbides. From a mechanical point of view, Stellite 6 is a very good candidate for valve seatings, however, in the PWR environment, cobalt activates, meaning that Stellite 6 should not be used. Thus the scope of this project is to understand the mechanisms of galling, including those in Stellite 6 which result in its galling resistance, and to produce a galling resistant alloy suitable for the PWR environment.  

Tom McAuliffe - Deformation mechanisms in Co/Ni-base superalloys

Title: Deformation mechanisms in Co/Ni-base superalloys

Investigator: Tom McAuliffe

Supervisor: Prof David Dye

Collaborator: Rolls-Royce plc

Funding: Rolls-Royce plc, CDT Advanced Characterisation of Materials

Duration: 02/10/2017 - 30/09/2021


Since the discovery of the Co3(Al,W) L12 phase, Co-base superalloys have undergone significant development. The addition of Ni has enabled the realisation of polycrystalline Co/Ni-base superalloys with a wider ɣ’ phase field, higher solvus temperature, and oxidation resistance comparable to Ni-base superalloys. This project aims to characterise plasticity over micro and nano length scales in order to open up new avenues for alloy design.


At intermediate temperatures, primary creep progresses via a variety of phenomena including stacking faults, antiphase boundaries, and microtwins. Optimisation of creep behaviour requires further understanding of the rate limiting mechanisms, and the effect of stress, temperature and composition. These factors will be investigated principally using TEM. Additionally, the evolution of strain at and around grain boundaries warrants further characterisation. Grain boundary sliding and microstructural changes will be investigated via EBSD, SEM and DIC. This is with an aim to assessing the impact of grain boundary strengthening carbides and borides.

Tom McAuliffe
Figure 1: Secondary electron image of the ɣ’ distribution in a Co/Ni-base superalloy (Knop et al, “A new polycrystalline Co-Ni superalloy” JOM, vol. 66, no. 12, pp. 2495-2501, 2014)

Xinping Fan - Strain partitioning in dual phase titanium alloys for aerospace applications


Title: strain partitioning in dual phase titanium alloys for aerospace applications

Investigator: Xinping Fan

Supervisors: Ben Britton (primary), Fionn Dunne (secondary)

Duration: 2017 Sept 30 – 2020 Sept 29


Dwell fatigue was one of the major causes for crack initiation on aeroengine discs, which lead to the reduction of service life. Cold dwell fatigue (CDF) was a complex deformation process that can take place at room temperature. This project is aiming to understand the role of microstructure on damage accumulation in Ti-624x series, with controlled microstructures, and understand how they perform in complex cyclic loading regimes. Major characterisation techniques will be high spatial resolution digital image correlation and high resolution electron backscatter diffraction. Experimental results combined with crystal plasticity modelling will be used to understand the strain partitioning in Ti-624x alloys.

Jingwei Xian - The nucleation and growth of Cu6Sn5 in solders

Investigator: Jingwei Xian

Supervisor:  Dr Chris Gourlay

Duration: 5/11/2012 - 4/11/2015 (PhD Studentship)

Description: Cu6Sn5 crystals are commonly found in Pb-free solder joints and their size, shape and volume fraction influence the reliability of joints (e.g. during thermomechnical fatigue). This project aims to control the Cu6Sn5 size and morphology by building a fundamental understanding of the nucleation and growth of Cu6Sn5 in both the bulk solder and the interfacial layer. The project uses analytical electron microscopy to investigate the 3D growth morphology, and stable isotope SIMS to study diffusion mechanisms in interfacial layers.

Dr Zebang Zheng-Investigation of slip transfer across grain boundaries within a crystal plasticity and discrete dislocation formalism with application

Investigator: Zebang Zheng

Supervisor : Professor Fionn Dunne and Dr Daniel Balint (Mech Eng)

Duration: 01/10/2012 - 31/12/2016 (MSc + PhD Studentship)

Description: This project will link high fidelity crystal plasticity (CP) modelling with discreet dislocation dynamics (DD) to model micro-deformation by slip in a grain boundary region. This approach will be used to address the stress states in grain boundary regions, with constitutive CP laws derived from DD models, thought to cause problems during cold dwell fatigue in Ti alloys.

Abigail Ackerman - Secondary Alpha in Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-6Mo

Investigator: Abigail Ackerman

Supervisors: Dr David Dye

Collaborators: Prof. David Rugg, Rolls-Royce plc.

Duration: 10/04/2014 - 10/01/2017

Description:Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-6Mo (Ti 6246) is currently used in the HP compressor of gas turbine engines. Secondary alpha is the phase of the alloy that nucleates from primary alpha, growing within the beta grains and additionally at the grain boundaries. The presence of secondary alpha gives the alloy it’s strength, however little is known about its nucleation, growth and behaviour.

By investigating how the phase grows under differing processing conditions, it is hoped some insight will be gained into the development of secondary alpha in Ti6246. The project will include analysis of chemistry, morphology, grain orientations and behaviour under deformation.

Alexander Foden – Improving Techniques for High Resolution Electron Backscatter Diffraction

Alexander Foden – Improving Techniques for High Resolution Electron Backscatter Diffraction

Investigator: Alexander Foden

Supervisor: Dr. Ben Britton

Duration: 3/10/16 – 3/10/19

Description: Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) is a well-established technique used to probe samples with scanning electron microscopy, where an electron beam is fired at a crystalline material and diffracted from crystal planes to form a Kikuchi pattern. In conventional EBSD, images are processed to extract crystal orientation and maps are formed with systematic mapping of a sample surface.

In this project, I will generate new analysis approaches to improve the precision of the EBSD data obtained and wealth of information probed. I will develop these algorithms using dynamical simulations and use them to probe unknown phases, measure orientation with higher precision and understand deformation in engineering materials.

Dr Alexander (Sandy) Knowles - Design and development of new materials for gas turbines – high strength titanium alloys

Title: Design and development of new materials for gas turbines – high strength titanium alloys

Investigator: Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Knowles

Supervisors: Prof. D. Dye

Duration:  Oct 2015–present DARE ( PDRA, Oct 2016–17 EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow


Description: Design and development of new materials for gas turbines as part of the EPSRC ‘Designing alloys for resource efficiency (DARE) - a manufacturing approach’ partnership across the University of Sheffield, Imperial College London, Kings College London and the University of Cambridge as well as ten industrial partners, including: TIMET, Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel, Siemens and Magnesium Elektron.

One direction of this project focuses on the design of new bcc refractory metal rich beta titanium alloys reinforced with intermetallic bcc superlattice precipitates. Alloys have been produced that comprise remarkable ultra-fine lamellar bulk nano-structures and have demonstrated exceptionally high strengths. Further development of these alloys is being made through my EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship.

A second direction supports the development of new TIMETAL 575 and 407 commercial titanium alloys and the characterisation methods that accelerate the path to commercialisation in collaboration with TIMET. On TIMETAL 575, the mechanisms of Si strengthening additions are being studied using advanced electron microscopy and mechanical testing. While detailed fatigue studies are being performed at multiple lengthscales on TIMETAL 407, so as to further understand its impressive fatigue performance.

Bo Chen - The Analysis of Fatigue Crack Nucleation & Propagation in Powder Nickel Superalloys using Crystal Plasticity Finite Element Modelling...

Student: Bo Chen

Supervisors: Prof. Fionn Dunne, Dr Jun Jiang

Funding:  IC-CSC, Rolls-Royce


Nickel based alloys have been increasingly used in aero industries because of their good in-service mechanical properties compared to other alloys, such as high strength, resistance to oxidation, corrosion and creep under high strength conditions. This material is some of the toughest material available. But these components will experience repeated loading and unloading during service which may result in highly localized plastic strains within materials and then lead to the uncontained failure which is potentially catastrophic. In this case, fatigue crack nucleation accounts for a great part of the total fatigue life of this component. However, the development of quantitative understanding of fatigue crack nucleation in Nickel superalloys has been a bit limited. As a result, it is crucial to develop understanding the mechanic basis of fatigue crack nucleation process, which is fundamentally microstructure sensitive, and hence to enable predictive modelling techniques to be developed to facilitate analysis of the key microstructural features (such as grain size, crystallographic orientation combination, twinning etc.) on lifetime.

Chong Zhao - Study of Micro Mechanical Deformation in Hardfacing Alloy

Student: Chong Zhao

Supervisor: Prof. Fionn Dunne, Dr.Jun Jiang

Funding: Rolls Royce (55%), Imperial College London (45%)



Hardfacing alloys have excellent corrosion and wear resistance. Cobalt base hardfacing alloys have good hard facing capacity and are widely used in nuclear applications. However, radiation from Cobalt is hazardous for both workers and plant materials so a non-radiative iron base hardfacing alloy is designed to replace traditional cobalt base alloys. This project will observe the sliding wear behaviour in this material. Mechanical properties, such as shear strength, elastic strain and galling resistance in increasing temperatures will be studied. These mechanical properties shall be compared with other hardfacing alloys and the relationship between chemical compositions and mechanical properties shall be investigated.

Chris Collins - The effect of nitrogen on Ti-6Al-4V

Chris Collins - The effect of nitrogen on Ti-6Al-4V

Investigator: Chris Collins, Rolls-Royce plc

Supervisor: Professor David Dye

Collaborators: Professor David Rugg, Rolls-Royce plc

Duration: 01/02/2016 - 01/02/2019 (Part-time MPhil)


Although the effects of oxygen on titanium alloys have been well characterised; the effects of another alpha stabilising interstitial, nitrogen, have not been researched as throughly. Samples will be taken from bars manufactured in the laboratories at Imperial, with particular care taken over reproducing microstructures and mechanical properties relevant to industrial applications.

This project aims to quantify the effects of a range of nitrogen contamination levels on the general properties of Ti-6Al-4V moving onto study the effects under simple LCF loading.

Claire Trant - Fatigue in Gamma Titanium Aluminide

Student: Claire F. Trant

Supervisors: Prof. David Dye, Prof. Trevor Lindley

Funding:  EPSRC, Imperial College and Rolls Royce MMRE P61357   



The limited ductility and relatively fast crack propagation of gamma TiAl make its use as a material for highly stressed components particularly challenging. The fatigue crack growth threshold has been identified as a key material property for design, supported by an improved understanding of the deformation mechanisms associated with a crack growing near threshold. In this project, the influences on the crack growth threshold will be investigated, followed by the effect of overloading, and applying an over and under-temperature. Further investigations will then be carried out with gamma TiAl depending on previous findings. Current ideas for further investigation include looking at air vs. vacuum dwells, forging vs. casting, or surface residual compressive stresses. Rolls Royce will supply components for this project, with potential future use in turbine blades.

David Wilson - Microstructurally sensitive modelling methodologies for crack nucleation and growth in Zr alloys

Investigator: David Wilson

Supervisors:  Prof Fionn Dunne and Dr Ben Britton

Collaborators: Michael Martin (Rolls-Royce)

Duration: 01/10/1015 to 01/10/2018



Microstructure-sensitive computational modelling techniques will be established, with which safety cases may be justified for in-service components. This is to be achieved initially through the development of crystal plasticity techniques for Zirconium alloys and will utilize data from a range of micromechanical test techniques including both high resolution electron backscatter detection (ebsd) and digital image correlation (DIC) which provide quantification of grain-level stress and plastic strain respectively. Appropriate mechanistic models are to be developed for defect nucleation which are to be tested by microstructure-level comparison with experimental observations. The success of the project would provide the underlying mechanistic basis, and the tools for the prediction of safety-critical component life, thus supporting the necessary safety justifications required by the aero-engine and nuclear industries.

Stress distribution around crack tip
Stress distribution around crack tip

Felicity Dear - Fundamental mechanisms in titanium alloys

Project details:

Investigator: Felicity Dear

Supervisors: Prof David Dye, Dr Vassili Vorontsov

Collaborators: Rolls-Royce plc

Funding: Rolls-Royce plc, CDT Advanced Characterisation of Materials

Duration: 03/10/2016–30/09/2020


Project title:

Fundamental mechanisms in titanium alloys


Project description:

Titanium alloys such as Ti–6 Al–4 V (wt. %) are widely used in aero engines, providing lightweight yet strong materials that can withstand elevated temperatures. This project will use advanced characterisation techniques to gain understanding of fundamental behaviours in these materials, aiming to better inform alloy design and usage.


Factors controlling and contributing to dwell fatigue are of primary interest, including slip behaviours and solute site partitioning within ordered Ti3Al precipitates. Atomic-scale structure and chemistry will be observed using techniques such as atom probe tomography and ALCHEMI, while dislocation behaviours will be studied using mechanical testing and TEM. Control of texture forms another aspect of the project, to be addressed with EBSD and fatigue testing.


Fig 1. Diffraction pattern and dark-field image of a Ti–11.7 Al–0.7 O–1.0 V (at. %) alloy after ageing, containing ordered Ti3Al precipitates within an α-Ti matrix.


Dr Guang Zeng - Intermetallic nucleation and growth in Magnesium alloy solidification

Intermetallic nucleation and growth in Magnesium alloy solidification


Investigator: Dr Guang Zeng

Supervisor: Dr Chris Gourlay

Duration: 07/03/2016 – 31/10/2019 (PDRA)

Funding:  EPSRC (Future LiME hub)


Description:  Solidification of magnesium engineering alloys involves the formation of intermetallic compounds (IMCs) throughout the solidification sequence. Impurities such as Fe, Cu and Ni can have determintal effects on the corrosion resistance of Mg alloys, often by forming IMCs with a different cathodic potential to (Mg). This study aims to understand the nucleation and growth mechanisms of intermetallics in Mg castings and explore ways to harness impurities. It involves controlled solidification experiments, X-ray video microscopy, X-ray diffraction and analytical electron microscopy. This project is the Imperial spoke of the Future LiME hub [], based at Brunel University, which is working towards full metal circulation in which the global demand for metallic materials is met by the circulation of secondary metals.


Guang Zeng 

Primary Al8Mn5 intermetallic in AZ91 magnesium alloy

Hikmatyar Hasan - Multi-scale modelling of high-temperature deformation mechanisms in Co-Al-W-based superalloys

Investigator: Hikmatyar Hasan


Supervisors: Dr. Vassili Vorontsov, Prof. Peter Haynes & Prof. David Dye


Funding: ESPRC (via TSM CDT)


Duration: 01/10/2015 – 01/10/2018


Since their discovery nearly ten years ago, Co-Al-W-based superalloys have emerged as the frontrunner materials to replace the ubiquitous Ni-based superalloys used in gas turbines. The modelling of deformation mechanisms in these alloys is of paramount importance for accelerating the identification of optimal alloy compositions, saving both time and money during the development process.


The dynamics of dislocations within these superalloys and the effects of diffusion will be studied using the Phase Field Model for Dislocations. Prior to this, a Generalised Stacking Fault Energy Surface will need to be calculated, as an input, at a much smaller length scale using Density Functional Theory.


The aim of the project is to characterize the effect of composition on the mechanical deformation of Co-Al-W-based superalloys using the above models.

Jim Hickey – H2S Corrosion of High Strength Steels

A Project Title – H2S Corrosion of High Strength Steels


Investigator: Jim Hickey

Supervisors: Dr. Ben Britton, Prof. Mary Ryan, Dr. David Payne

Duration: Sep 2015 – March 2019

Funding:  EPSRC & Shell UK


Description: In the presence of aqueous H2S and stress, high strength steels (HSSs) (those with yield strengths > 700 MPa) embrittle and can fail catastrophically. This phenomenon is termed sulphide stress cracking (SSC). Understanding this is crucial since H2S containing oil and gas wells (sour gas wells) are now routinely exploited. HSSs are desirable, if not necessary, for some of the infrastructure of oil wells with extreme environments. The aim of the project is to simulate conditions found in down-well environments and characterise the effect of the environment and load on a series of HSSs to guide mechanistic understanding of the effect of H2S on HSSs. 

Figure 1 – Inverse Pole Figure Map (Z – perpendicular to sample surface) of a sample of interstitial free steel that has been rolled then annealed at 700 ⁰C for 48 hours. The map is of the rolled surface with the rolling direction depicted.
Figure 1 – Inverse Pole Figure Map (Z – perpendicular to sample surface) of a sample of interstitial free steel that has been rolled then annealed at 700 ⁰C for 48 hours. The map is of the rolled surface with the rolling direction depicted.

Lucy R Reynolds - Cobalt based Superalloy development

Investigator: Lucy R Reynolds


Supervisors: Prof. David Dye, Dr. Vassilli Vorontsov


Duration: October 2015 – March 2019


Funding: EPSRC & Rolls-Royce plc


Description: The drive for aerospace engine efficiency is increasing, and demand for materials able to withstand the higher turbine entry temperatures is rising. Promising current candidates are Cobalt based Superalloys, with an ordered L12 phase being discovered in 2006 by Sato et al.


Through tweaking alloying additions and processing, a family of new stable high temperature superalloys with excellent resistance to oxidation have been developed. This project will focus on anti-phase boundaries and stacking faults within the alloys, including energy determination and assessment of the effect varying composition has on their mechanical properties. A number of analysis techniques will be used, for example, SEM, TEM, EDX, EBSD and DSC.

Muzi Li - Characterisation and modelling of the mechanical properties of gamma prime phase in nickle P/M superalloy

Investigator: Muzi Li

Supervisors:Professor Barbara Shollock and Professor Fionn Dunne

Collaborators: Dr Gaofeng Tian (Aviation Industry Corporation of China)

Duration: 01/01/2014 - 01/05/2017 (PhD Studentship - AVIC)

Description: Gamma prime precipitate (γ’ ) is the most important strengthening phase in powder metallurgy nickel-base superalloy. Its size, morphology and distribution have an important influence on the mechanical properties. Secondary gamma prime phase plays a key role in high temperature properties. This main aim of this project is to explore the relationship among: (i) the heat treatment parameters; (ii) γ/γ’ microstructural characteristics; (iii) mechanical properties (including micro-hardness, micro elastic modulus, mechanical properties of samples subjected to heat treatment), which will provide great help to heat treatment parameters optimization that generates the ideal γ/γ’ microstructure resulting in the best compromise of mechanical properties.

Ning Hou - Directional Solidification of Eutectic Pb-free Solders

Investigator: Ning Hou

Supervisors: Dr Chris Gourlay

Duration: 3/10/2014 - 30/9/2017 

Description:Most electronic solders have near-eutectic composition. One aim of my project is to quantify the competition between stable Sn-Ni3Sn4 and metastable Sn-NiSn4 eutectic microstructures during controlled unidirectional growth. The focus is on the influence of interface growth rate and impurities on phase selection. Another aim is to measure and calculate the eutectic coupled zone for eutectics important in soldering such as Sn-Cu6Sn5, Sn-Pb, Sn-NiSn4 / Sn-Ni3Sn4 and Sn-Ag3Sn.

Osamudiamen Omoigiade - Microstructural Control of Pearlite

Investigator: Osamudiamen Omoigiade

Supervisors: Professor Rongshan Qin and Dr Christopher Gourlay

Duration: 04/08/2014 - 08/03/2017 (PhD Studentship - TATA)

Collaborators: Dr Arunasu Haldar (TATA Steel) and Dr Shu Yan Zhang (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)

Description: The pearlite phase is a ferrite and cementite mixture with high interfacial energy and is a common constituent in low alloy steels as it contributes quite significantly to strength, so much so that fully pearlitic structures find use in high strength applications such as wires for bridge suspension cables. However, its microstructure renders it mechanically anisotropic. Therefore, growing pearlite with a tailored microstructure enables us to probe the strength of the structure more effectively.

My research is therefore centred on manipulating steel microstructures by using an external field to induce transformations in the solid state for which pearlite lends itself to being a good candidate due to its relatively high interfacial energy. Moreover, external fields have been shown to exhibit measurable influence on the thermodynamic properties in steel systems and could accordingly alter the microstructure evolution during processing.

In order to study these effects, neutron diffraction experiments are implemented to reveal the structure and property changes in phase transformations. These changes in microstructure can then be transcribed into changes in physical properties, and finally implemented on larger scales with the aid of our industrial collaborators.

Dr Sergey Belyakov – Optimising Sn-Cu-Ni solders for reflow and micro-joints

Investigator: Dr Sergey Belyakov

Supervisor: Dr Chris Gourlay

Duration: 30/06/2016 - 01/07/2013 (PDRA)

Collaborators: Nihon Superior Co., Ltd.

Description:Sn-0.7Cu-0.05Ni has been used as a Pb-free solder since 1999 and has become a popular choice for wave-soldering. This project seeks to understand microstructure formation during reflow soldering and microstructure evolution in service when any Sn-Cu-Ni alloy is soldered to Cu or Ni substrates. The research aims to control and predict solder joint reliability in this system and to understand the how joint miniaturisation affects microstructure formation and stability. This project involves controlled solidification experiments, reflow soldering and analytical electron microscopy.

Read More:

  • S.A. Belyakov, C.M. Gourlay, NiSn4 formation during solidification of Sn-Ni alloys. Intermetallics. 25 pp. 48-59, 2012
  • S.A. Belyakov, C.M. Gourlay, NiSn4 formation in Ni-Sn and ENIG-Sn couples. Journal of Electronic Materials. 41(12) pp. 3331- 3341, 2012
  • S.A. Belyakov, C.M. Gourlay, Role of Fe impurities in the nucleation of metastable NiSn4, Intermetallics. 37, pp. 32-41, 2013

Simon Wyatt - Understanding Crystallographic Texture Evolution in Two-Phase (hcp/bcc) Alloys

Investigator: Simon Wyatt

Supervisors: Dr. T Ben Britton (primary), Prof. Fionn P E Dunne

Funding:  EPSRC STU0126694 (50%), Rolls-Royce Group plc (50%) 



Metals are widely used for load-bearing applications in complex environments. Their properties are dependent on the underlying behaviour of the material microstructure, which is naturally anisotropic due to the discreet and crystallographic nature of slip and anisotropic elastic properties. This project focuses on developing efficient methods of modelling the evolution of crystallographic texture in two-phase alloys using efficient crystal plasticity based upon the fast Fourier transform. Working with Rolls-Royce plc, materials will be characterised using HR-EBSD to determine textures which will further stimulate the computational work.

Dr Sudha Joseph - Dwell fatigue crack initiation in compressor disc alloy Ti-6262Si

Investigator: Dr. Sudha Joseph

Supervisors: Dr David Dye

Duration: 21/09/2014 - 21/09/2016 (HexMat PDRA)

Description: Dwell fatigue is a deleterious failure mechanism in compressor discs made of titanium alloys used for aero engine applications, which can be of concern. It can give rise to sub-surface initiation and brittle cleavage-like, facetted features. This can be controlled/avoided by the fundamental understanding of the failure mechanisms. This project aims to understand the deformation mechanisms in disc alloy Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo-0.1Si (Ti-6242Si) under dwell conditions. In particular, the focus is on crack initiation since life of the component under these circumstances is dominated by nucleation. One of the interests is to investigate the damage mechanisms at a low stress level, where the creep mechanisms start activated and compare it with the damage mechanisms at high stress level, where the dwell effect is dominated by creep mechanisms. It involves extensive mechanical (static, cyclic, dwell and creep) and microstructural characterization (SEM, EBSD and TEM) of the alloy. The main objective is to look at the slip behavior and dislocation interactions in crack initiated facets of the FIB milled samples using advanced TEM techniques. The dislocation studies will be carried out in relation to the crystallography of primary α grains. The role of hydrogen in dwell behavior of the alloy will also be investigated.    

Suki Adande - A micromechanical study of crystal orientation and coating chemistry in a graded engineering alloy

Investigator: Suki Adande

Supervisors: Dr Ben Britton

Collaborators: AVIC-BIAM

Duration: 01/06/2014 - 01/06/2017

Description:The aim of this project is to characterise and understand components of Ni superalloys in coated systems using high fidelity micromechanical tests. The techniques we will employ include; TEM, FIB, EBSD and in-situ testing combined with more standard metallographic techniques such as optical microscopy.

Micromechanical tests can isolate specific regions of interest within an alloy and examine dislocation mechanics at the local scale (micro-nanometres) in an attempt to better understand strengthening mechanisms associated with this scale. Micropillar compression enables small volumes of material to be tested. Compression tests can be subsequently analysed through load/displacement/time data and correlated with EBSD / slip trace analysis to better understand and quantify the material properties / deformation mechanics of the system. Compression tests will be done on different regions and orientations of industrial nickel based superalloys utilising coating chemistries that form a functionally graded alloy. The mechanical properties and intermetallic chemistries of these pillars will be related with chemistry and dislocation structure using SEM based EDS and dislocation contrast in the TEM. This data can be used to improve modelling of functionally graded coatings, and provide experimental input into physically based models.

Te-Cheng Su - In-situ synchrotron radiography and tomography studies of semi-solid deformation in Al alloys and steels

Investigator: Te-Cheng Su

Supervisor : Dr Chris Gourlay

Duration: 06/10/2014 - 31/03/2018 (Imperial College PhD Scholarship)

Collaborators: Tomoya Nagira, Osaka University; Hideyuki Yasuda, Kyoto University; Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI)

Description: The investigation of deformation of partially solidified alloys by in-situ X-ray synchrotron radiography has been widely reported in the last five years. It develops from the 2-D direct observation and a series of image analysis techniques on semi-solid alloys in isothermal holding. Further, some breakthroughs have been made such as tomographic reconstruction to observe the three-dimensional granular behaviour of partially solidified alloys during casting. There are several unexplored combinations of semi-solid microstructure, stress and accumulated strain which may affect the mechanical response of partially solidified alloys under loading. Therefore, the project is investigating the effect of grain size, shear strain rate and solid fraction on deformation mechanisms of Al-Cu alloys and steels in the semi-solid state by the application of in-situ X-ray synchrotron radiography and tomography. We are adapting ideas and methods from soil mechanics to track the microstructural evolution including the liquid flow field, strain field and grain motion during loading in order to develop new perspectives for filling, feeding and defect formation in alloy casting.

Tianhong Gu - EBSD studies of the evolution of microstructure and damage during the thermal cycling of Pb-free solder materials

Title:  EBSD studies of the evolution of microstructure and damage during the thermal cycling of Pb-free solder materials

Investigator: Tianhong Gu

Supervisors: Dr Ben Britton / Dr Christopher Gourlay

Funding: Self-funded

Description: When electronics fail in service the cause is often thermomechanical failure of the solder joints. The major failure is cracking occurred in the bulk near solder / substrate interface, as shown in Figure 1. Pb-free joints usually contain more than 95% tin phase, which has highly anisotropic thermophysical properties. Thus, tin is particularly sensitive to thermomechanical fatigue caused by cycles of heating and cooling. There is a strong industrial demand to understand the mechanisms leading to thermomechanical fatigue failure, to be able to predict the joint microstructure that is most resistant to thermal cycling, and to develop ways of generating the optimum microstructure through alloy design and processing.Therefore, this project will be focused on investigating the role of stress distribution within solder joint generated from thermal expansion mismatch between solder ball and substrate, and microstructure of solder ball on failure mechanisms of solder joints during thermal cycling.

Dr Vassili Vorontsov - High-resolution electron microscopy of Co-Al-W superalloys

Investigator: Dr Vassili Vorontsov

Supervisors: Dr David Dye

Collaborators: Dr Jonathan Barnard (University of Cambridge) and Rolls-Royce plc.

Duration: 1/11/2011 - current (EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship)

Description: This project involves research of defects and interfaces in advanced engineering alloys, such as Co-Al-W superalloys, using atomic-resolution electron microscopy techniques, including spherical aberration corrected phase contrast TEM imaging and Z-contrast STEM. In a recent study the effects of alloying on the structure of the gamma/gamma-prime interface in the Co-Al-W based superalloy system were shown to have two types of interface between the coherent γ and γ' phases: the compositional; and the order-disorder (i.e. structural) gradients. While these interface types are closely linked to one another, they have been found to possess differing widths and their effective centres do not always lie on the same line. This is likely to affect the mechanical properties of the alloys, such as creep and fatigue resistance, due to the impact of interface width on the ability of dislocations to glide from one phase to another. Therefore, understanding of such effects will become important when designing new alloys.

Dr Vivian Tong - Micromechanical Testing of HCP Alloys

Investigator: Dr Vivian Tong

Supervisors : Dr Ben Britton (Primary), Fionn Dunne (Secondary)

Duration: 11/10/2016 - 31/03/2018 (HexMat PDRA)

Collaboators: University of Oxford, University of Manchester

Description:  Hexagonal close-packed (HCP) alloys such as titanium and zirconium are used in the aerospace and nuclear industries respectively. HCP alloys have anisotropic mechanical properties which affect in-service performance. Micromechanical testing of single orientations or grain boundaries provides an opportunity to isolate intrinsic materials properties and test them directly, which is not possible to obtain from macro-scale testing as the response is averaged out over many grain orientations. In particular, the strain rate sensitivity (SRS) of Ti alloys has been shown to be linked to facet nucleation in dwell fatigue. Micropillar compression directly measuring SRS of different slip systems, coupled with crystal plasticity modelling, has informed mechanistic understanding of cold dwell fatigue.

This project will develop the micropillar compression technique to study SRS of and strain localisation in HCP alloys, with a view to improving our understanding of the intrinsic performance of high value industrial alloys.

William White - Discrete dislocation dynamics coupled with discrete solute diffusion to model the effect of hydrogen in steel

Discrete dislocation dynamics coupled with discrete solute diffusion to model the effect of hydrogen in steel

Supervised by Daniel Balint and T. Ben Britton

Funded by ICO CDT Nuclear Engineering and AWE



Plastic deformation in metals is due to the motion of mobile dislocations subject to shear stresses in excess of a critical value. At particular strain rates and temperatures mobile solutes form atmospheres at the base of dislocations pinning dislocation motion. This results in an inverse strain response, jerky plastic flow and decreased ductility. In the worst case, ductility is reduced significantly and brittle fracture may occur. We attempt to understand the interaction and effects of mobile dislocations and solutes in metals using discrete dislocation dynamics coupled with an appropriate discrete solute diffusion model. In the first instance our model will be developed to describe carbon solutes in saturated iron. A generalized model will be developed so as to give insight to the deleterious effects of hydrogen in industrial steels.

Dr Zhen Zhang - Microstructure-sensitive deformation mechanisms in high performance HCP alloys

Investigator: Dr Zhen Zhang

Supervisors: Professor Fionn Dunne and Dr Ben Britton

Collaborators: Rolls-Royce plc/Timet/Westinghouse/EDF

Duration: 06/01/2014 - 06/01/2016 (PDRA - HexMat)

Description: We will investigate dwell fatigue, shear band formation, and slip transfer at grain boundaries on high performance superalloys applied in areospace engineering. The purpose is to understand the deformation mechanisms from micro-scale levels as well as to interpret experimental observations based on crystal plasticity models.