PhD Projects

These are some example PhD projects at the CDT.

Accelerator driven reactors

Accelerator driven reactors, fuelled by Thorium, provide a new form of nuclear power that is inherently safe, produces negligible waste, and is proliferation resistance, which could provide a route to a carbon-free power economy. However,  many practical questions need to be considered: e.g. next generation proton accelerators, the generation of neutrons from the protons by spallation, and the way these neutrons interact with Thorium and other isotopes created in the reactor core.

Thorium Fuel CycleStudents will simulate the neutronics of such cores using the programs MCNPX and GEANT, optimising the geometry of the fuel rods and moderators so that as few neutrons as possible are wasted in non-useful reactions, and thereby ensuring that the reactor can run at an efficiency that makes it economical. They will become familiar with the physics processes that protons and neutrons undergo in matter, and develop expertise in using industry-standard simulation programs. These results are needed to establish  the viability of future systems.

Effects of Gold Nanoparticles on boosting the local effects of irradiation

The use of gold nanoparticles to locally boost the effects of photon irradiation has been studied for a number of years. However, the effects are somewhat inconclusive and one of the problems appears to be how to get the gold nanoparticles into the cell nucleus and then ensure that the radiation is targeted so that only the gold nanopartcles within the cell contribute to this effect.  In this project we will use the vertical ion nanobeam at Surrey and the x-ray microbeam at QUB to look at the effects of targeted low and high LET irradiation on gold nanoparticles that have been introduced to the cell nucleus either because they are very small ~4nm or have been attached to a large molecule (e.g. TAP peptide), which enables them to enter the cell).  A range of healthy and cancer and cell lines will be used to study the variation in this effect with cell line.  Similarly studies will also be undertaken on synchronous and asynchronous cell populations so that effects around the cell cycle can be evaluated.  The final stage will be to look at the effects of gold nanoparticles when subjected to a mixed LET beam such as that from the Belfast Laser ion source or an intense beam of radiation from ALPHAX (or SCAPA) at Strathclyde.

Neutron sources driven by  ultra-intense laser pulses

At the laser intensities currently available radiation pressure effects become important during  laser-matter interaction, leading to the production of  high density ion beams and plasma jet.
Neutron sources driven by ultraintense laser pulses
Irradiating deuterium enriched targets, will result in bright, uniquely short bursts of MeV fusion neutrons.

The project would investigate and characterise neutron production (in-target and beam-target fusion) using high power lasers. Potential for application in material science, biological studies and threat detection via Pulsed Fast Neutron Radiography techniques.

Potential PhD projects

  • Radiotherapy studies using high energy electron beams and comparison with ions and gamma ray therapy (Strathclyde)
  • Probing dense matter using gamma rays for security applications (Strathclyde)
  • Negative and neutral ion sources for fusion plasma diagnosis (QUB)
  • Proton radiography of fusion plasma (QUB)
  • Warm dense matter production via isochoric heating using short laser-produced bursts (QUB)
  • High dose-rate radiobiology with laser-driven ions (QUB/Surrey)
  • Studying the effects of light and heavy ions along the Bragg curve in tumour and healthy cell lines (Surrey)
  • Development of a virtual  tumour  to study the effects of high dose rates and pulsed beams (Surrey/QUB)
  • Studies of surface properties using low energy ion scattering  (Huddersfield)
  • Metrology of RF cavities used in accelerators (Huddersfield)

For further details and to apply please contact cdtenquiries@ngacdt.ac.uk.