Atomic–scale insights into interfaces in ultrafine-grained, low-solute alloys


This project will use advanced microscopy techniques, including transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and atom probe tomography (APT) to understand the effect of solute segregation on the grain-coarsening behaviour of low-solute, ultrafine grained alloys


Associate Professor Julie Cairney

Research Location

Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis (ACMM)

Program Type



Ultrafine-grained (UFG) alloys are an exciting and important new class of materials with exceptional properties and excellent potential for mass commercialisation in Australia. Due to the very small size of the grains, grain-size stability is a crtical issue for these alloys; low stability can lead to the degredation of properties over time and can limit the potential for further property enhancements through thermomechanical processing. Recent evidence suggest that solutes play a greater role in the stability of ultrafine-grained alloys than has been previously thought, but the mechanisms behind this behaviour remain unclear. The aim of this project is to understand the effect of solute segregation on the grain-coarsening behaviour of low-solute, UFG alloys. The outcomes of this work will include: 

  • An improved understanding of the role of solutes in stablising fine structures in UFG alloys, information that will be useful in the design of new alloys in this exciting new class of materials
  • A better fundamental understanding of the influence of solutes on grain boundary migration, an important phenomenon in the thermomechanical processing of alloys.
  • New experimental methods and techniques for the study of both interfacial composition and grain boundary crystallographic structure that will be able to be applied to many other systems.
This project will be carried out in collaboration with reerachers at the University of New South Wales (Prof. Michael Ferry) and with Carl Zeiss, a manufacturer of electron microscopes and focused ion beam systems. The student will have teh opportunity to travel, potentially undertaking a research stay aborad 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 Industry Linkage Program. A scholarship of $25,000p.a. is available to appropriately-qualified students
  • Students who have, or who expect to achieve an Honours 1 degree (or international equivalent) in materials science or engineering, other engineering, phyics or physical chemistry are eligible to apply.

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

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1503

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