Materials and Structures Research Projects for Students

If you are applying for a scholarship, please follow the instructions on the faculty scholarship page.

These projects are for current University of Sydney students only.

If you have any questions regarding these projects, please contact


Deformation behaviour of materials with gradient microstructures

Supervisor: Professor Xiaozhou Liao
ID: MSRC25
Date: 23.11.2014
Recent investigations show that introduction of structural gradient can significantly improve the mechanical properties of materials. This project aims to apply scanning electron microscopy techniques, including the electron backscatter diffraction and transmission Kikuchi diffraction techniques, to explore the mechanism behind the improved mechanical properties of materials with structure gradient.

Electrical conduction of binary granular materials

Supervisors: Dr Gwénaëlle Proust Yixiang Gan and Ali Abbas
ID: MSRC24
Date: 20.11.2014
This project focuses on establishing an experimental capability to quantify transport phenomena in granular materials and bridge between experiments and numerical modelling efforts. We will couple experiments and computations to investigate electro-mechanical properties in granular structures. Towards understanding the complex interplay among multiple physical fields, we will use the electrical measurement system with the combination of mechanical loading. Model materials, a combination of conductive and non-conductive grains, will be subjected to different surface modification techniques to achieve a desirable range of surface structures. Moreover, sizes of grains will be changed to cover a wide range of roughness-to-grainsize ratios, where the influence of the surface can be alternated. We will use a composition of grains with electrical conductive and nonconductive properties to form a binary granular system. We will study percolation processes with different mixing ratios (grain sizes and volume ratios), and under changing stress conditions.

Ultrafine grained magnesium alloys with enhanced mechanical properties

Supervisors: Dr Gwénaëlle Proust and Dr Luming Shen
ID: MSRC23
Date: 19.11.2014
Magnesium (Mg) alloys are highly attractive in modern industry due to their properties such as low density and biocompatibility. However, in spite of a growth in their production, the structural and biomedical applications of Mg alloys are still very limited due their relative low strength and high-corrosion rates. Therefore, this project aims at overcoming these drawbacks and lead to the full potential of Mg alloys. To reach this goal, an innovative technique based on grain refinement will be introduced. Decreasing the grain size of Mg alloys will result in an increase of their strength and a decrease of their corrosion rates.
During this project, the student will undertake the following work:
1) Produce ultrafine grained (UFG) Mg alloys using high-pressure torsion (HPT), which is an extremely effective method for refining grains in bulk solids by imposing high strains on the material.
2) Characterise the strength of the material using micro-hardness testing.
3) Characterise the microstructure of the material using optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Microscopy on high-wear alloys for the mining industry

Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC22
Date: 06.11.2014

The application and development of Transmission Kikuchi Diffraction techniques

Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC21
Date: 02.11.2014

CO2 utilisation for materials synthesis

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ali Abbas
ID: MSRC20
Date: 05.11.2014

Curvature dependant segregation of solute species to dislocation lines in Al-¬-Cu-¬-Li-¬-Mg-¬-Ag alloys

Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC19
Date: 08.11.2013

Developing new food products from the combined water-induced and flow-induced crystallization and drying of pastes

Supervisors: Professor Tim Langrish and Dr Gwénaëlle Proust
ID: MSRC18
Date: 08.11.2013

Cellular automata modelling of cyclic melt-solidification during shearing of polymers and geo-materials

Supervisor: Professor Itai Einav
ID: MSRC17
Date: 03.11.2013

Investigating the surface roughness effect on mechanical properties

Supervisors: Dr Gwénaëlle Proust and Dr Luming Shen
ID: MSRC16
Date: 16.10.2013

In Silico strategies for high-performance materials

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ali Abbas
ID: MSRC15
Date: 12.09.2013
This project proposes a systematic in silico approach involving multi-scale modelling and optimisation to design high-performance materials. The investigations will be carried out for design applications of various materials including carbon capture solvents, refrigerant mixtures, heat transfer working fluids, and membrane materials. The project carries the overarching aim of optimal use of resources and therefore the maximising of process techno-economic performance through the use of materials optimally designed, in silico.

Isoparametric spline finite strip method for non-isotropic materials

Supervisors: Professor Kim Rasmussen, Professor Liyong Tong
ID: MSRC14
Date: 27.08.2013
The project aims to develop an Isoparametric Spline Finite Strip Method (ISFSM) capable of analysing the response of prismatic structures made from non-isotropic materials when subjected to load. The ISFSM has been recently developed by Rasmussen and co-workers for the linear, buckling and nonlinear analyses of prismatic structures composed of isotropic materials, notably metal structures. However, in their current form, the analyses do not have capability to analyse non-isotropic materials, including orthotropic materials, such as carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRPs).

Civil engineering applications for smart materials

Supervisors: Associate Professor Gianluca Ranzi, Professor Liyong Tong, Professor Kim Rasmussen
ID: MSRC13
Date: 27.08.2013
The aim of this research is to establish an integrated framework to exploit the use of smart materials for structural applications, which will be used to develop a family of morphing thin-walled components to be used in civil engineering applications. Prototype components will be designed, fabricated and tested to evaluate how the how of smart materials can ?enhance the structural performance of thin-walled components.

Design of structures including uncertainty

Supervisors: Dr Gareth Vio, Dr Hao Zhang, Professor Liyong Tong, Professor Kim Rasmussen
ID: MSRC12
Date: 24.11.2012
Deterministic approaches to design use safety factors and worst-case design scenarios to account for uncertainties and consequently the design are conservative or could be unknowly dangerous. This project aims to explore design capabilities by including uncertainty principles in the design process in order to create a robust design for the given parameter space. The project will target composite thin wall structures in both civil and aeronautical applications.
Suitability: undergraduate and postgraduate

High performance computing for the analysis of materials at the atomic scale

Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC10
Date: 02.11.2012
Atom probe microscopy is a technique that is able to generate 3D maps showing the location and species of atoms within matter at the atomic scale, but the datasets are very large, containing tens of millions of atoms. The student in this project will be participating in the development of atom probe analysis algorithms that make use of the GPU to enable analysis in real time. These algorithms are written in MATLAB® using an easy to use commercial GPU library.

Crystallisation of lactose powder during mechanical deformation

Supervisors: Professor Tim Langrish
ID: MSRC09
Date: 01.11.2012
Crystallisation is an important process in the production of lactose and the food industry is always looking into new ways to optimise this process. This project will focus in studying the state of crystallisation of lactose powders that will be subjected to different loading paths. To that end, the summer scholar will have to set up experimental procedures to deform the powders and he/she will characterise the deformed powders using optical and electronic microscopy, X-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy. The project will be conducted using the equipment available in the Schools of Civil Engineering and of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and at the Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis.

Effect of high pressure and high-pressure torsion processing on the microstructure of bulk metallic glasses

Supervisor: Professor Xiaozhou Liao
ID: MSRC07
Date: 31.10.2012
Bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) are the strongest metallic materials. However, the materials suffer from very poor ductility. One possible way to improve the ductility of BMGs is through manipulating the structures of the BMGs using plastic deformation. This project aims to understand how two deformation modes – high-pressure compression and high-pressure torsion, both in a constrained volume – affect the structure of BMGs. Structural characterisation will be carried out using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and electron microscopy.

Effect of high strain-rate deformation on the structures of single-phase and dual-phase nanocrystalline materials

Supervisor: Professor Xiaozhou Liao
ID: MSRC06
Date: 31.10.2012
Nanocrystalline materials have superior mechanical properties because of the unique deformation behaviour of the materials. This project aims to understand the deformation behaviour of nanocrystalline Ni (single face-centred cubic phase) and nanocrystalline Ni-Co alloys (face-centred cubic and close-packed hexagonal dual phases) under high strain-rate deformation. The nanocrystalline materials were produced using electrodeposition. High strain-rate deformation will be carried out using a split Hopkinson bar located in the Civil Engineering. Structural characterisation will be conducted using X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy in Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis.

Understanding the role of the different deformation mechanisms during the mechanical loading of titanium

Supervisor: Dr Gwénaëlle Proust
ID: MSRC04
Date: 31.10.2012
Titanium has applications in modern industries concerned with pollution reduction, energy saving and health improvement because of its low density, high strength at high temperatures, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility. The main objective of this project is to understand how titanium deform and especially to characterise and define the effects of two deformation mechanisms: twinning and detwinning. In that purpose, the student will carry out mechanical deformation and microstructural characterisation of titanium specimens. In parallel, he/she will help develop a new code to automatically analyse and quantify twinning using micrographs.

Discovering new mechanisms for strength

Supervisor: Dr Peter Liddicoat
ID: MSRC03
Date: 31.10.2012
In a new generation of super strong alloys, this project will study the origins of strength and how to optimise properties. Students will be trained to use state of the art research techniques to characterise the architecture of grain boundaries and second phase precipitates.

Development of atom probe analysis programs

Supervisor: Professor Simon Ringer
ID: MSRC02
Date: 31.10.2012
This project will involve software development of novel and existing tools and techniques for the analysis of atom probe data. These tools will have the potential to be used by atom probe researchers worldwide.


The following projects are no longer available

Atom probe experiments on doped Si wafers

Supervisor: Professor Simon Ringer
ID: MSRC01
Date: 31.10.2012
For the experimentalist: In this project, you will perform experiments on doped silicon wafers. You will be responsible for specimen preparation, the atom probe microscope experiment, and the analysis of the data after the experiment.

The Development of biomimetic nacre-like composites

Supervisor: Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC08
Date: 01.11.2012
This project will involve the development of very strong, very tough composites inspired by nacre, the mother-of-pearl material found in seashells, which has a remarkable strength and toughness despite its composition of relatively weak constituents. The student will be involved with the characterisation of the composite's microstructure using advanced microscopy, and will work with a group of researchers across the University: A/Prof Andrew Minett, who is based in Chemical Engineering and who's group are developing the composites themselves, A/Prof, Julie Cairney, who is based in the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis and will provide support with the characterisation, and Dr Luming Shen, who is based in Civil Engineering and who's group is modeling the properties of such composites.

Computer-aided design of solvent materials for carbon dioxide capture

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ali Abbas
ID: MSRC05
Date: 31.10.2012
This project aims at significant reductions in the CO2 capture energy penalty by way of analysis and design of new solvent materials. The project will use computer models and simulations to calculate material properties for screening and selection of 'best' sorption materials considering carbon capture performance criteria.

Effect of metal aging on aeroelastic characterestics

Supervisors: Dr Gareth Vio, Associate Professor Julie Cairney
ID: MSRC11
Date: 05.11.2012
Project Description: Stresses during an aircraft life affect the material properties of each component. This in turn has an effect n the aeroelastic properties of that aircraft. Currently regulation do not take into account the effect of aging on an airframe. A prime example of this aging effect are the wrinkles on the skin of the B-52. The project will look at the effect that the changes in materials properties have over the life of an aircraft by looking at the critical aerolastic parameters.