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  • PhD studentship in Materials

    Imperial College London -Department of Materials

    Silicon carbide / boron carbide ceramic nanocomposites for armour

    “Harder is better !” was a slogan in the early days of the use of ceramics for armour. To some extent this might appear to be true as typically in the three major groups of ceramics used for armour, the ranking in terms of quality is B4C>SiC>Al2O3 and the hardness varies in the same way with nano-hardness values of 36-40, 32-36 and around 24 GPa respectively . However, for this trio of materials the slogan could just as well have been “Lighter is better !” as the density increases from 2.52 g cm-3 for boron carbide over 3.21 g cm-3 for SiC to almost 4 g cm-3 for alumina. There is little doubt that light materials are more useful as the weight of armour must be limited as much as possible to enable both vehicles and humans to operate effectively. Recent work has shown that B4C-SiC composites with grain sizes in the order of microns for both materials show much improved performance in DOP testing. Alumina composites with SiC nanoparticles also outperform oxides tested previously. However, in both composites it is difficult to work out whether there is actually any further benefit than simply reducing the mass of the ceramic. Therefore the main research question for this PhD will be whether specific types of SiC/B4C composites can offer improvements over and above the mass benefit obtained by simply mixing commercial SiC and B4C powders. The step taking in answering this question is to develop the production routes for a range of nano-composites. Another important research theme when dealing with boron carbide is to ascertain whether and in how far the presence of SiC in B4C influences the collapse of the B4C crystal structure (amorphisation), which is believed to explain the performances issues of B4C.

    Applicants should have an interest in powder processing and should possess good analytical and practical skills. An aptitude for experimental research work is desirable. Applications are invited from candidates with a good upper-second or first-class honours degree in Materials or related Engineering areas. While experience with ceramic processing is a plus, the student can be trained and will be embedded in the Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics at the Department of Materials (http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/structuralceramics).

    Only UK and EU citizens are eligible. The rules on who is eligible are strict and cannot be changed. The studentship is for three years starting as soon as possible and will provide full overage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of circa £15,590 assuming satisfactory progress, which will include a judgement by the sponsor, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

    Applications will be assessed as received and all applicants should follow the standard College route (http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/pgprospectus/howtoapply). Informal enquiries and request for additional information are encouraged can be made to: Prof Vandeperre via e-mail: l.vandeperre@imperial.ac.uk

    Committed to equality and valuing diversity. The Department of Materials has an Athena Silver SWAN Award, Imperial is a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Tick Employer.

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