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PhD Studentship: 3D microstructural imaging of aerospace alloys


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Saturday 30 March 2024
Reference:  ENG1717

Aim: Measure the microstructure and the crystallographic orientation of high value aerospace alloys through the volume of the samples by combining different laser ultrasound measurement techniques and large scale ultrasound propagation models.

What we offer:

  • A world-class multidisciplinary research environment, spanning optics, ultrasonics, manufacturing and AI
  • A supportive culture for researchers as signatories of the Researcher Development Concordat (
  • A chance to learn new skills: optics, ultrasonics, instrumentation, coding, manufacturing, AI
  • The opportunity to produce high-quality publications
  • Travel to visit international partners and attend conferences
  • 3.5 years funding including fees and stipend (home fee status only)

Vision: Most metals are made up of many small crystals and the size, shape, orientation, and distribution of the crystals that make up the microstructure has a significant impact on the material’s performance. Measuring the properties of the grains inside a component – without destroying the sample – is currently not possible. The project will combine ultrasonic measurements from different instruments using both information at the surfaces and from inside the material, with powerful wave propagation models to “un-peel" the sample, first revealing its surface microstructure and elasticity and then progressively tomographically reconstructing the inner layers using a unique set of measurements adapted to remove and see-through the outer layers.


The interior microstructure, as our industrial partners testify, is exceedingly important in safety critical advanced manufacturing applications. For instance, the aerospace sector makes massive investments in its material processing systems and to a significant degree these hinge on controlling the microstructure so that material properties are tightly controlled and understood and the occurrence of potentially critical defects is kept within regulated limits for safety. Nevertheless, because volumetric microstructural defects are extremely hard to spot, defects do make it into final products and these can have devastating effects. The ability to characterise the sub-surface microstructure without sectioning will be revolutionary and provide the first practical and non-destructive method for microstructural through volume assessment of materials.

What you should have:

  • 1st or 2.1 honours undergraduate or master's degree in Engineering, Physics, or similar
  • Enthusiasm for hands-on experiments
  • Coding abilities in any language (e.g. Python or MATLAB or C/C++)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to work collaboratively in a team across disciplines

Please contact Dr Richard Smith if you are interested in applying,

Note that the funding associated with this role is awarded via an internal competition and is therefore only confirmed sometime after the admission application is approved.

Our university is a supportive, inclusive and caring community and we encourage applications from a diverse range of backgrounds. The Faculty of Engineering was the first in the UK to be awarded an Athena SWAN Gold Award, in recognition of our commitment to supporting and advancing women’s careers in Engineering.

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