Understanding grain boundary segregation – a route to developing new advanced engineering materials


This project will use advanced microscopy techniques, including transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and atom probe tomography (APT) to investigate the effect of grain boundary impurities on the miscrostructure and properties of nanocrystalline materials.


Associate Professor Julie Cairney

Research Location

Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis (ACMM)

Program Type



Grain boundaries are one of the most important factors that determine the properties of an alloy. This project will use new information about grain boundary composition and structure for the development of advanced engineering alloys with exceptional properties. New technologies now allow direct experimental observation of grain boundary composition with unprecedented accuracy and we have proven concepts for new analytical methods that will to allow us to directly determine both grain boundary composition and crystallographic structure at the atomic scale. The PhD student will utilize the unique combination of advanced microscopy methods available at the Australian Centre from Microscopy and Microanalysis in the study of:

  • Grain refinement in titanium (Ti) and zirconium (Zr) alloys. This will aid with the development of stronger and tougher Ti and Zr alloys through new grain refinement practices.
  • Grain size stability in nanocrystalline alloys. This information may be used to produce new nanocrystalline alloys with exceptional properties through grain boundary engineering.
This work will provide a better fundamental understanding of the segregation and diffusion of solutes at grain boundaries. The development of new approaches to studying solutes at grain boundaries will also be of major benefit, and is a secondary aim of this project.   This project will be carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Queensland. The student will have the opportunity to travel, potentially undertaking a research stay abroad as a part of their project. The candidate will become an expert in the fields of materials science and microscopy, developing expertise with techniques that are expected to make a major contribution to fundamental and applied research over the next few years.

Additional Information

  • This opportunity is also available to honours students or TSP students (in the Faculty of Science). A shorter project will be proposed in these cases.
  • This project has been funded by the Australian Research Council under its Discovery Program. A scholarship of $25,000 p.a. is available to appropriately-qualified students.
  • Students who have, or who expect to achieve and Honours 1 degree (or international equivalent) in materials science or engineering, other engineering, physics or physical chemistry are eligible to apply.

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materials, microscopy, atom probe, Electron microscopy, metallurgy, nanotechnology

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1501

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