Advancing Integrated Engineering Design of Breeding Blankets to Mitigate Failure

Institute: King’s College London
Supervisor: Dr Christos Skamniotis
Closing date: Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Applications are invited for a studentship in the area of Finite Element modelling of Nuclear Materials under Extreme Thermomechanical Loads, leading to the award of a PhD degree, with a desired start in September 2024. Bursary and tuition fees for 3.5 years are covered for UK students by UKAEA and King’s College London (international students can apply if the fee difference can be covered).

Nuclear fusion reactors impose one of the harshest environments to engineering materials through a combination of elevated temperatures, electromagnetic loads and neutron flux. Design innovations are needed to ensure safe and sustainable nuclear energy generation to underpin the UK’s decarbonisation mission as well as global initiatives towards Net Zero. New reactor blanket systems, such as Helium Cooled Pebble Beds (HCPB), will play pivotal role in increasing fusion efficiency by allowing operation at higher neutron and heat flux than current levels. However, the complex geometric assembly of HCPBs (plasma facing plates attached on neutron multiplier blocks and pressure/cooling channels) induces technological challenges and mechanical failure concerns, which present major obstacles to advancing fusion technology.

Blanket design and failure assessment encompass some of the most significant scientific and engineering challenges to tackle. It requires accurate computational modelling of the time varying stress-deformation in remarkably complex geometries under combined cyclic thermomechanical-electromagnetic-irradiation-swelling loads. In partnership with the UKAEA, this project will aim to address each of these challenges by developing novel Finite Element models of complex HCPB assemblies under in-service reactor transient loading conditions in order to develop new guidelines for fusion design and material selection. The overarching aim is to understand failure mechanisms (low cycle fatigue-creep, plastic collapse, embrittlement) by adopting clever hybrid computational approaches where simplified analytical solutions for idealised geometric-load conditions are firstly developed in order to guide the development of high order numerical models capturing the full geometric-material-load complexity.

The project is designed to make a significant advancement in Blanket design by adopting a design-by-integrity analysis approach and aligns seamlessly with UKAEA’s mission to lead the delivery of sustainable fusion energy and maximise the scientific and economic benefit. As a world leading institution in scientific computing, we also seek to advance the current computational modelling techniques and computer design of fusion systems suffering aggressive cyclic thermomechanical-electromagnetic loads and neutron flux, to make wider impact on the advanced solid mechanics community.

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain at least a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 in mechanics of materials, materials science, mechanical engineering or relevant subject area. Prior to the development of novel CAD/FE models and constitutive material models, the successful candidate is expected to engage in studying fundamental heat transfer theory, extended elasticity and plate theory, as well as creep-plastic shakedown theory, under the supervision of Dr Christos Skamniotis.

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Christos Skamniotis with their CV. 


Suitable candidates will be required to apply via King’s Apply online system:

The selection process will involve a pre-selection on documents, if selected this will be followed by an invitation to an interview. If successful at the interview, an offer will be provided in due time.

Funding Notes

Funding is available for 3.5 years and covers tuition fees for UK students (£7,050 per year) and a tax-free stipend of approximately £21,943 p.a. with possible inflationary increases after the first year.


Hernández FA et al. Consolidated design of the HCPB Breeding Blanket for the pre-Conceptual Design Phase of the EU DEMO and harmonization with the ITER HCPB TBM program. Fusion Engineering and Design 2020.
Retheesh A et al. Application of Inelastic Method and Its Comparison with Elastic Method for the Assessment of In-Box LOCA Event on EU DEMO HCPB Breeding Blanket Cap Region. Applied Sciences 2021.
Boccaccini LV et al. Status of maturation of critical technologies and systems design: Breeding blanket. Fusion Engineering and Design 2022.