PhD Studentship in Influence of Laser Shock Peening on Environmentally Assisted Cracking in 7xxx Aluminium Alloys

University of Southampton School of Engineering

United Kingdom

PhD Studentship in Influence of Laser Shock Peening on Environmentally Assisted Cracking in 7xxx Aluminium Alloys

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus

Closing Date:  Monday 31 August 2020

Reference:  1265720DA

Supervisory team:                 Dr Julian Wharton, Prof Philippa Reed

Project description

Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship at the University of Southampton, working with Airbus and in collaboration with Coventry University.  Newer generation 7xxx aluminium aerospace alloys are sensitivity to a phenomenon known as environmentally assisted cracking (EAC), due to the combined action of stress (applied or residual) and exposure to moist air in normal operating environments.  Laser shock peening (LSP) is a surface engineering process used to impart beneficial residual stresses.  The deep, high magnitude compressive residual stresses induced by laser peening increase the resistance of materials to surface-related failures, such as corrosion and fatigue.  Understanding the interplay between EAC and LSP is critical to improve 7xxx aluminium alloy performance in-service.  Thus, research is vital if LSP processes are to be applied industrially for high risk, safety critical components.

The PhD aim, to advance understanding, is to investigate and optimise the research methods to study the EAC initiation and growth on 7xxx aluminium alloys.  Specifically, the student will develop experimental and modelling methods to understand the influence of LSP on the EAC phenomena.  Both experimental measurements and computational modelling will provide understanding of the LSP/EAC interface by developing kinetic models for the underpinning mechanisms.  This will involve investigating the following strongly coupled processes:

  • The importance of LSP generated oxide films and surfaces;

  • Materials degradation kinetics ahead of a crack tip, which can be mediated by microstructure and diffusion and hydrogen affinity of the aluminium alloy components;

  • Micromechanical kinetics for crack growth, determining by plasticity and local stress field interactions.

The importance of microstructural features and the differences in crack morphology of the 7xxx alloys will be analysed using the renowned optical, electron microscopy and high-resolution X-Ray tomographic imaging facilities at the University of Southampton.

Candidates for this PhD position should have a good degree in Materials Science, Engineering or related discipline with strong computational skills.  Experience in materials modelling is useful but not essential; however, candidates should be enthusiastic about using mathematics and computers to model materials behaviour.  As well as developing excellent experimental and computational modelling skills, the PhD student will acquire expertise in advanced surface modification methods and how they are used for modern aerospace structures fabricated from aluminium alloys.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Julian Wharton, National Centre for Advanced Tribology Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 592890.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 August 2020 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,285 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2020-21 “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Dr Julian Wharton under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact: 

In your application, please refer to