Research Studentship in Fretting Fatigue and Contacts in Partial Slip

3.5-year D.Phil. studentship

Project title: Fretting Fatigue and Contacts in Partial Slip

Supervisor:  Professsor D A Hills

This studentship is part of a joint UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Rolls-Royce plc funded project on ''Advanced Propulsion Systems'' being jointly undertaken by the Universities of Oxford, Nottingham, and Imperial College, London.

All parts in a mechanical assembly exchange their loads through contacts.  In a gas turbine the rotor has many blades rotating at high speed which are retained to the rotor by dovetail or firtree arrangements, and the contact stresses in these are very high.  Minute amounts of slip cause ‘fretting’ and the nucleation of fatigue cracks.  In this project we aim to study, in detail, the nature of the slip patterns present at those contacts, and to direct to experiments aimed at revealing the conditions under which cracks nucleate.  The intention is to understand how, as the rotor is accelerated, the contacts develop and to be able to predict how small zones of frictional slip form. This will be done by developing a mathematical model of the contact using elasticity theory.  Alongside this theoretical work Laboratory experiments to measure fretting fatigue strength will be conducted, and the theory used to explain the experimental results.  We will thereby develop a robust method for design against fretting in the engines themselves.


This studentship is open to all students. UK/EU students are eligible for a full award (fees plus stipend). Overseas students are eligible for a stipend and fees at Home/EU level. In exceptional circumstances, an Overseas student may be eligible for fees at the Overseas fee rate for the course.

Award Value

University tuition fees are covered at the level set for UK/EU students, as are Oxford college fees (c. £7,432 in total p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £14,553 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two and a half years.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

 A first class honours degree in Engineering, Physics or Mathematics;

  • Excellent English written and spoken communication skills;

  • A strong background in applied mechanics;

  • Ability to program in Matlab (or Mathematica) 

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  • Experience in models of contacts;

  • Experience in modelling or testing severely loaded engineering components

  • Experience of using Abaqus or similar finite element programmes

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof DA Hills (

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria.  Details are available on the course page of the University website.

Please quote 18ENGIN_11DAH_1 in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline:  noon on 19 January 2018 

Start date: October 2018