Research Studentship: Probing Damage in Fusion Reactor Materials using Laser-Induced Transient Gratings

3.5-year DPhil studentship starting October 2017

Research Summary

We are seeking a DPhil student to join the Hofmann group at the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, as part of the European Research Council funded project “AtoFun”.

Nuclear fusion promises to be the ultimate future energy source; sustainable, environmentally friendly and intrinsically safe. Its commercial development is hindered by a lack of materials that can withstand the intense irradiation, high temperatures and large ion-flux inside future fusion reactors. To predict how materials will perform in this extreme environment, detailed understanding of the changes in material properties that irradiation causes is essential.

Much work thus far has concentrated on the evolution of material structure and mechanical properties. However thermal transport property changes due to irradiation remain largely unexplored. Yet high thermal transport is essential for efficient reactor operation and to minimise material degradation due to excessive temperatures. Our preliminary measurements have shown that using laser-induced transient gratings, irradiation-induced changes in thermal transport can be probed with high accuracy and spatial specificity. They revealed that even small amounts of irradiation damage have a dramatic effect on the thermal conductivity of fusion reactor armour components.

The student will concentrate on designing and building a transient grating laser system optimised for the measurement of thermal transport in irradiation-damaged materials. S/he will use this new tool to study the changes in thermal transport properties brought about by irradiation damage in key materials for future fusion reactors, such as tungsten-based alloys and steels. S/he will combine these exciting measurements with cutting edge simulations developed in collaboration with colleagues for example at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. This will link irradiation induced defects to thermal property changes, and will allow the prediction of changes caused by specific irradiation conditions.

The project will be carried out under the supervision of Prof. Felix Hofmann at the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, UK. Other projects in the Hofmann group concentrate on the development of new TEM and coherent X-ray diffraction techniques for characterising atomic scale defects. There will be strong synergies with these activities.

Prof. Hofmann’s research team is part of two “super groups”, consisting of 10+ academics each: the Solid Mechanics and Materials Engineering Group (SMMEG) in the Department of Engineering Science and the Materials for Fission and Fusion Power (MFFP) group in the Department of Materials. Weekly meetings of both provide an excellent platform for presentation of results and an active and stimulating environment for discussion with other researchers working in related fields. Further information about Prof. Hofmann’s research can be found at and additional details about the Solid Mechanics Group in the Department of Engineering Science are available at

Award Value

The value of the studentship is £22,000 per year. The student will be responsible for covering the cost of university and college fees (


This studentship is open to all applicants.

Candidate Requirements

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

  • Excellent degree in Engineering, Material Science, Physics, or another relevant discipline;
  • Excellent analytical skills;
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills;

Willingness to travelling to international collaborators and science facilities for experimental work (expenses will be covered).

  • The following skills are desirable:
  • Ability to program in Matlab & Labview;
  • Knowledge of optics;
  • Knowledge of material defect modelling.

Application Procedure

To apply for this studentship, candidates should send the following documents to

  • CV
  • Covering letter (explaining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the DPhil and any research experience to date)
  • Contact details for three academic or professional referees


NOTE: Candidates are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria available at and a full graduate application must be made at the same time as applying for this studentship.  Your studentship application will not be considered until you have submitted a graduate application. Further details about making a graduate application are available at

Please quote FH_ERC_TG in all correspondence to the Department and in your graduate application.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Prof. Felix Hofmann ( Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted. 


Application deadline:  10th March 2017