Study with ICAM

PhD opportunities are available a on a wide-range of projects, all with real-world applications.

For the latest available courses take a look at the pages of our university partners:

 

Current Vacancies

PhD Studentship: Multiscale Modelling of Corrosion Scales (Imperial College London)

We are all familiar with corrosion and its significant economic and environmental consequences. The current cost to industry is estimated to be over $2 trillion per annum. Current theories of corrosion are in large part based on the phenomenology of average behaviour and predict more of less successfully average corrosion rates for widely used metallurgies. This is often insufficient to allow us to generate new strategies for detecting, controlling and ultimately preventing corrosion especially in extreme environments. Recent advances in multi-scale modelling and in the in situ measurement of atomic scale processes in corrosion layers suggests that it may well be possible to generate a new predictive model of corrosion scale formation that addresses behaviour at macroscopic length and time scales but is rigorously based on a new understanding of atomic scale processes.

Applications are invited for a fully funded 4-year studentship in the combined quantum, atomistic and continuum modelling of the nucleation, growth and degradation of corrosion scales in the Computational Materials Science Group at Imperial College London.

The project involves the development of a continuum model to describe ionic and charge transport within realistic models of granular films. The model will be used to analyse the growth and degradation of, for example, oxide, sulphide and carbonate scales that form on steel surfaces in various environments. The reaction kinetics, diffusion and charge transport processes underpinning the model will be obtained from large scale quantum mechanical calculations.

This work will be conducted as part of a wider collaboration involving the Universities of Leeds, Edinburgh, Manchester and Cambridge within which state of the art in situ measurements of microscopy and spectroscopy will be used to elucidate the composition and structure of growing scales. The long term aim is to develop strategies for the prevention, mitigation and detection of corrosion.

Applicants should submit a CV, a brief statement of research interests, and the names of two referees by e-mail to Professor Nicholas Harrison (nicholas.harrison@imperial.ac.uk)

PhD Studentship: Nucleation of Sweet and Sour Oilfield Corrosion Scales (The University of Manchester)

This PhD is part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in "Materials for Demanding Environments" [CDT in M4DE], is sponsored by BP and will commence October 2017

Background

SEM image of protective corrosion scale formed on iron in a sweet environment (T = 80°C, pH = 6.8).

Corrosion is an omnipresent concern in oil and gas production. Effective control is essential for maintaining equipment performance and avoiding disasters. This project targets understanding of corrosion scales, which can be key to structural integrity, employing state-of-the-art approaches to explore their structure/chemistry at the nanoscale. CO2/H2S are primary reagents for internal corrosion of oilfield equipment. Both dissolve in H2O forming acidic solutions, leading to potentially highly corrosive environments (CO2: sweet; H2S: sour). Solid corrosion products may also appear as a consequence of sweet/sour corrosion, with their formation dependent upon a range of parameters, e.g. pH and temperature. If adherent to the carbon steel substrate, such solids can significantly reduce the rate of corrosion, and so are integral to material sustainability. Significant effort has been applied to characterise such established scales, which has resulted in key insights into their nature. Currently, however, there are few nanoscale details about their nucleation, which may be key to their protective properties. For instance, it is generally presumed that CO2-induced scales are formed solely through precipitation subsequent to solution supersaturation, but direct evidence remains elusive. It may be that initial nucleation/growth also involves some other interfacial reaction(s), e.g. through the chemistry of adsorbed CO2-H2O complexes, which have been predicted to be energetically favourable on Fe surfaces.

Project Outline

State-of-the-art characterisation tools will be employed to elucidate interface structure during oilfield scale nucleation. Nuclei morphologies and nucleation sites will be imaged in situ with both electrochemical atomic force microscopy (EC-AFM) and novel transmission electron microscopy cells. The evolution of nuclei crystallinity and size/shape distribution will be observed in situ using synchrotron (DLS beam lines I07/I22), grazing incidence wide angle and small angle X-ray scattering (WAXS/SAXS). High lateral spatial resolution on beam lines I08 and I14 will allow direct insight into interfacial heterogeneity during nucleation, using for example X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) to probe local scale nuclei chemistry.

The outcome of the research will be a nanoscale understanding of oilfield scale nucleation processes that are essential to improving scale protection through early intervention, such as the optimisation of scale nuclei to promote directed growth or the control of scale processes using novel inhibitors.

Funding Notes

Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of £17,000. Students with a first class/2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Materials Science, Metallurgy, Physics, Chemistry or another aligned science or engineering subject are encouraged to apply.

Applications will be reviewed as they are received until a candidate is selected; therefore candidates are encouraged to apply early.

Funding is available to UK or EU candidates only.

PhD Studentship: In Situ X-ray Tomography Study of the Breakdown of Sweet and Sour Oilfield Corrosion Scale (The University of Manchester)

This PhD is part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in "Materials for Demanding Environments" [CDT in M4DE], is sponsored by BP International Ltd and will commence October 2017.

Background

Corrosion of metallic structural materials is an unfortunate and relentless problem that has plagued the oil & gas industry for decades and continues to have a massive impact on the global economics of production. In the North Sea it has been estimated that 60% of the maintenance budgets are directly due to pipeline corrosion as a result of multiphase flow and flow assurance issues. Although the oil & gas sector may be conceived as a declining industry, it should be pointed out that this is not the case in the EU with oil & gas companies generating more than €400bn to the economy each year.

Given the on-going importance of the industry it is imperative to develop technologies to limit the expense of maintenance and loss of production time due localised corrosion events. In order to develop these technologies a more robust understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of corrosion scales, breakdown of these scales and subsequent localised attack and possible cracking in both sweet and sour pipeline environments is needed.

Project Outline

In this project the focus will be placed on characterising the differences between a protective and a non-protective corrosion scale formed on low alloy steel substrates. In situ x-ray tomography experiments will be performed in conjunction with advanced electrochemical techniques (e.g., electrochemical noise, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, scanning electrochemical probe techniques) to elucidate the mechanisms for scale breakdown leading to localised pitting as a function of simulated pipeline environments.

The outcome of the research will provide understanding of the mechanical and chemical processes that lead to failure of the pipe. Information from the study may also lend in developing technologies such as novel inhibitor systems that will improve the protective nature of the corrosion scale therefore limiting the probability of loss of production due to pipe failure.

It should be noted that the student will be able to use the world-class x-ray imaging facility at the University of Manchester (i.e., MXIF) to perform experiments in situ in bespoke environmental chambers capable of simulating pipeline environments. The student will also have the opportunity to utilise the synchrotron based x-ray beamlines in Europe and the US for complimentary experiments to those performed in Manchester.

Characterisation of the corrosion scales both from an electrochemical and structural nature will be a key component in the project. Again the student will be able to utilise the University of Manchester’s world-class facilities which include suites of the latest electron microscopes and analytical equipment to develop mechanistic understanding of the degradation mechanism of this systems.

Funding Notes

Funding Notes: Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of £17,000 tax free. Students with a first class/2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Engineering, Materials Science, Metallurgy, Physics, Chemistry or another aligned science or engineering subject are encouraged to apply. Applications will be reviewed as they are received until a candidate is selected; therefore candidates are encouraged to apply early.

Funding is only available for UK / EU candidates.

Centres for Doctoral Training

ICAM also has involvement with a number of Centres for Doctoral Training. Students taking part in these programmes undertake a taught year before progressing to an industry-set PhD research project.

More information on these courses can be found below: