Group Members


– Post Doc / Research fellows –


Dr. Pedro A. Ferreirós – 2021-present

Dr. Pedro A. Ferreirós is an experimental metallurgist focussed on the design & development of new alloys for nuclear power reactors and gas turbines. There are 2 types of alloys where he is specialized. The first type are Fe-Al base alloys with coherent precipitation for high temperature applications and the second type are Zr based alloys for use as structural material in nuclear power reactors. As a mechanical engineer he completed his PhD in materials science in 2016 at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) in Argentina, where he worked as a researcher until 2020.

In 2021, as a Research Fellow he joined the Alloys for Extreme Environments group of the School of Metallurgy & Materials to develop zirconium base alloys, ferritic superalloys and high entropy alloys. He is Lecturer in “Solidification” and “Metal Forming” at the Sabato Institute (Argentina).

Techniques employed: TEM, SEM, EDS, XRD, DSC, EPMA, mechanical testing, others.


Dr. Kan MA – 2021-present

Kan received his Bachelor and Master degrees in Nuclear Engineering in Sun Yat-sen University in China and did his PhD (2017.10-2020.12) in the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) & Chimie ParisTech-Université Paris Science&Lettre (PSL) in France. His PhD focused on the irradiation behavior of Ni-based fcc model alloys for a better understanding of radiation damage in austenitic steels deployed for Gen IV reactors. In pursuit of his career in academia, Kan joined the team in UoB since May 2021 as a postdoctoral research fellow, expending his field from fcc to bcc materials, to develop novel bcc-superalloys for supercritical CO2 application within H2020 project COMPASSCO2.

Project: H2020 COMPASSCO2 – Components’ and Materials’ Performance for Advanced Solar Supercritical CO2 Powerplants

His focus is on (i) the design of new alloys and demonstration&tailoring of their microstructure using electron microscopy; (ii) the demonstration of the mechanical properties, environmental (corrosion and irradiation) resistance of studied alloys in collaboration with other EU research groups. His work has an emphasis on advance electron microscopy to pursue fundamental mechanism for the alloys’ resilience under representative end-application conditions.

Techniques employed:

  • Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) related technique: conventional TEM for dislocation analysis, Scanning TEM (STEM)-EDS
  • Focus Ion Beam (FIB): preparation of TEM samples and needles for Atom Probe Tomography (APT), FIB combined with flash polishing
  • Atom Probe Tomography (APT)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): SE/BSE imaging, EBSD, EDS, Slip trace analysis
  • Ion and electron irradiation (in-situ) experiment
  • SRIM for radiation damage calculation

Techniques learning:

  • Mechanical test: small punch creep test
  • Corrosion experiments and scale analysis
  • Proton/neutron irradiation

Partners: CIEMAT (Spain), DECHEMA (Germany), VTT (Finalnd)


Dr. Tianhong Gu – 2021-present

Dr Tianhong Gu joined the School of Metallurgy and Material in July 2021 as a Research Fellow. She graduated from the University of Cambridge, where she obtained MPhil in Materials Science and Metallurgy in 2014. Her MPhil research project was focused on developing novel Aluminium & Magnesium coating composites for improving high temperature and high corrosion resistant performance. Tianhong then moved on to PhD study at the Imperial College London, receiving PhD in Materials Engineering in 2019. She has made a significant contribution to revealing and understanding creep mechanisms at microscopic scale, correlating strain localisation with recrystallisation and precipitates by using advanced materials characterisation techniques such as EBSD and DIC.

Research interests / Project

Tianhong is interested in developing understanding of microstructure and advanced characterisation techniques, applied to understand metals and alloys in aerospace and nuclear energy applications. She is a specialist in understanding deformation behaviour, microstructure, as well as using electron microscopy. Her research has involved notably developing quantitative scanning electron methods, including tensile, indentation and micropillar compression, and a wide range of advanced characterisation techniques in SEM such as EBSD, DIC, EDX, FIB. Her current research focuses on “Bcc-superalloys” such as Ni, Ti, W, Zr alloys and HEAs within Sandy Knowles’s group aiming at finding solutions to high temperature next-generation nuclear and aerospace applications.

Techniques employed:  SEM, EBSD, EDX, FIB, Micromechanical testing, DIC,  others.


– Visiting Researchers – 

Dr. Andy Watson – 2022-present

Dr Andy Watson

After studying for a degree in Metallurgy at the University of Manchester, Andy went on to gain an MSc and PhD taking calorimetric study and thermodynamic assessment of the Ni-V system as topics for his thesis.  Following a brief spell in the flame-spraying industry, Andy went on to the University of Sheffield continuing experimental and computational thermodynamics studies on a variety of material types … from metallic systems, through semiconductor systems on to a high-temperature oxide superconductors.  Andy then went on to the University of Leeds looking at steels and Tungsten alloys, but additionally became heavily involved in COST Actions 531 and MP0602 on lead-free solders, which resulted in the creation of dedicated self-consistent thermodynamic databases for lead-free solders and the publication of Atlases of calculated phase diagrams.  He also acted as Vice Chair of the management of both Actions.

Now associated with Hampton Thermodynamics, Andy works as a consultant in Computational Thermodynamics and is closely associated with SGTE (Scientific Group Thermodata Europe) where he manages the solution database and is co-writing an online tutorial on thermodynamics.

Andy has been working as a member of the MSIT (Materials Science International Team) for more than 30 years and has recently been appointed as Editor-in-Chief of MSI Eureka, a ‘dynamic virtual knowledge based of critically evaluated phase constitution of inorganic materials’.  He is also lead organiser of the MSIT Winter School on Materials Chemistry.

An associate editor for the Journal of Phase Equilibria and Diffusion, Calphad Journal and the Journal of Mining and Metallurgy, Andy was Chair of the Materials Chemistry Committee of the IOM3 before restructuring of the Institute in 2022.


– Technical Support –

Manzo Brown – 2021-present

Manzo Brown qualified with a BEng (Hons) in Computer Aided Design/Manufacture from the University of Central England in 1998. After a short career working for West Midlands Police, he left to face a new challenge working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the Histology department, from here he moved to the High Temperature Research Centre based in Coventry where work primarily revolved around validation and investigation of Rolls Royce High and Low Pressure turbine blades.

    • Health and Safety Coordinator 2018
    • DSE Assessor 2017
    • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator 2000

In my current role I provide technical support within the School of Metallurgy and Materials supporting research and development for the Alloys Extreme Research Group.  This support includes designing, developing, assembling and maintaining laboratory equipment.  I also implement and monitor the compliance of health and safety.

Working knowledge of the following:

  • Thermal gravitational analysis (STA and LFA)
  • High temperature furnaces
  • Dilatometers
  • High & Low temperature furnaces 
  • Arc melting
  • Strip Casting
  • Wire EDM
  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • XRD
  • SEM -Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): SE/BSE imaging, EBSD, EDS
  • Materialographic preparation and analysis
  • Polishing and Etching metal and alloy samples
  • Ambient and High temperature tensile strength testing
  • High temperature and room temperature testing
  • Mercury porosimetry


– PhD students –


Paraic O’Kelly – 2019-present

Paraic began his academic journey in Limerick, Ireland and thereafter entered the workforce in the Oil & Gas sector, returning to pursue a Masters in Advanced Engineering Materials. En-route to alloy design fun in Birmingham, he had a year-long pit-stop in Arizona to work on metal AM research projects. His free time is highly structured around swimming and coffee.

Project: 𝛽 titanium superalloys reinforced with 𝛽’ ordered bcc precipitates for high temperature applications

Paraic is working on alloy design of ordered-bcc 𝛽’ superlattice structures precipitated within a disordered-bcc 𝛽-Ti matrix, utilising Fe as a low-cost 𝛽-Ti stabiliser. Within this framework, he is investigating methodologies for “accelerated metallurgy” which can reduce the cost and time associated with design of complex materials systems.

Techniques employed: XRD, EBSD, FIB, TEM, diffusion experiments, oxidation testing

Industrial partners: TIMET


Neal Parkes – 2018-present

Neal is a PhD student that started in 2018 investigating the miscibility gap in tungsten alloys as a means of improving the DBTT and radiation resistance for us in fusion reactors and high temperature applications.

Project: NanoStructuring tungsten for fusion reactors

Nuclear fusion offers the prospect of large-scale low carbon energy with no long-lived radioactive waste. Over 50 years of worldwide research to overcome the significant technological challenges is culminating in the ITER experiment, currently under construction in Cadarache, France. In this, 50 MW of input heating is anticipated to output 500 MW of fusion power from a 150 million°C plasma sustained for up to 1,000 seconds, aiming to demonstrate the commercial potential of fusion power. The materials used to construct such reactors are exposed to extreme conditions in terms of temperature, heat flow and plasma ablation as well as neutron irradiation. This is despite the highly sophisticated magnetic confinement of the fusion plasma used to shield the reactor’s physical components and materials. The leading plasma facing material to withstand such temperatures is tungsten, the highest melting point metal. However, tungsten exhibits a brittle to ductile transition temperature (DBTT), and also suffers from irradiation embrittlement.

Techniques employed:  XRD, SEM, TEM, EBSD, Pseudo in-situ recrystallisation


Jóhan Pauli Magnussen – 2019-present

Jóhan is a PhD student that started in 2019 in the design of high temperature zirconium alloys for nuclear fusion and fission applications, in collaboration with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL).

Project: Novel high temperature zirconium alloys for nuclear fusion

Zirconium is valuable in nuclear applications for its low neutron cross section, but most commercial alloys have insufficient strength at high temperatures. This project investigates new zirconium alloys strengthened by intermetallic precipitates for improved high temperature performance.

Techniques employed: SEM, EBSD, XRD, others


Vincent Gagneur – 2020-present

Vincent is a PhD student who joined the team in Oct 2020. A French native, he first studied nuclear engineering at the University Grenoble-Alpes (UGA). While working as an apprentice project manager at Saclay Nuclear Research Centre (CEA), on a decommissioning project, he developed an interest for Research and decided to move to another masters in nanostructure engineering, also at UGA. Studying and working in the semi-conductor industry made him gain a major interest in material Science.

Project: In-situ micromechanical testing of novel refractory 𝛽-Ti superalloys for aerospace gas turbines

In this project, newly developed β-β’ Ti-TiFe & derivative alloys are being investigated, using advanced micromechanical testing, coupled with digital image correlation (DIC), at room and elevated temperatures. This analysis reveals new insights as to the deformation behaviour in such bcc-superalloys, in particular: load partitioning, slip system compatibility and slip transfer between β and β’ phases, eventually leading to new ductilisation strategies.

Techniques employed: Micromechanical testing, automation (Matlab, Python), Digital Image Correlation, FIB, EBSD, Slip trace analysis, High and Room temperature mechanical testing.

Industrial Partners: Rolls Royce, TIMET


Tom Blackburn – 2021-Present

Tom joined the group in September 2021 after graduating from his Integrated Masters in Mechanical and Materials Engineering degree at the University of Birmingham. His interest in sustainable energy started after coming to university where he wanted to put his newfound knowledge and interest to good use and help tackle climate change. His project fits this perfectly as a highly sustainable energy production and storage prospect for both electricity and clean hydrogen.

Project: Chromium-based superalloys for Concentrated Solar

This project explores the exciting prospect of novel chromium-based alloys to be used in next generation Concentrated Solar power plants employing the supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle. Their intended use is within the heat exchanger to transfer thermal energy from solid particles to sCO2 and therefore the material is subjected to high pressure, corrosive, high temperature and abrasive environments. Currently chromium alloys appear promising due to their corrosion and high temperature resistance however their ductility at room and high temperatures prevents their current use. This project ultimately aims to produce a chromium alloy that is ductile at high temperatures while retaining the original desirable properties of chromium. Current investigations surround the use of nickel aluminium precipitates within a chromium matrix.

Techniques employed: Arc melting, FIB, SEM, TEM, small punch mechanical testing, EBSD, high temperature and room temperature mechanical testing, oxidation and corrosion testing both in air and CO2 environments, wear testing and slip trace analysis.

Industrial Partners: This project is part of the Horizon 2020; COMPASsCO2 consortia incorporating European partners Dechema, VTT, Ciemat, Sugimat, DLR, John Cockerill, CVR, Julich, Ocas, Ome and Saint-Gobain.


Sophia von Tiedemann –  2021-present

Sophia joined the group in July 2021 for her PhD. Originally from Germany, she studied Nuclear Engineering at the University of Birmingham. During her studies, she developed an interest in nuclear fusion and related challenges in finding suitable materials. Her group project on irradiation of tungsten first introduced her to the university’s research environment. In 2020, she carried out an internship with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to model neutron activation of materials in a fusion environment. This led to her Master’s thesis, in which she conducted a sensitivity analysis to compare neutron activation in different types of steel. In her PhD, Sophia aims to develop a new kind of BCC-superalloy based on the FeNiAl-system, for application in nuclear and high-temperature environments, such as nuclear fusion, Gen-IV fission reactors or gas-turbines.

Project: Development of Ferritic Superalloys for Gas Turbines and Nuclear Reactors

In this project, Sophia is working on developing ferritic BCC superalloys with a ß-ß’ microstructure, for high-temperature applications. The aim is to investigate the effects of misfit and precipitate size on the alloys’ physical properties, such as creep resistance and ductility, as well as the effect on irradiation resistance. Since the materials in nuclear fission and fusion reactors are subjected to significant amounts of neutron irradiation, it is important to study the effects of such conditions on the material’s microstructure and properties. Using the university’s cyclotron, a selection of alloys will be irradiated with protons to model conditions in a nuclear reactor. Afterwards, nano-hardness and electron microscopy (SEM, TEM) will be used for analysing changes in physical properties and microstructure.

Techniques employed: Electron Microscopy (SEM, TEM), EBSD, nano- and micro-hardness


– Master students –

*to update*

– Former members –

Rob HeymerRob Heymer

Rob is a graduate research assistant, and completed his Masters project with the research group, focusing on analysing the ductilising effect of rhenium in W-Re alloys.

Project: Sub-scale ductility analysis of W and W-Re

A sub-scale three-point bending technique was designed, verified, and used to compare the ductility of tungsten and tungsten-25% rhenium alloys for use in fusion reactor plasma facing components. The addition of rhenium is found to significantly increase ductility, though this effect is diminished after heat treatment. Future tests aim to examine the effect of strain rates further, and employ digital image correlation in combination with the technique to examine strain evolution.

Analytical/experimental techniques employed: SEM, EBSD, XRD, Mechanical testing

Lorenzo Luerti

Lorenzo completed his MEng final year project with the research group in 2020.

Alexandre Souchet

Alexandre completed his MEng final year project with the research group in 2020. This focussed on using high entropy alloys (HEAs) as waste surrogate alloys to characterise the microstructure of metallic precipitates in nuclear waste.

Ryan Butler

Ryan is a 4th year Mechanical and Materials Engineer from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.  His MEng project is on the development of titanium alloys for biomedical application. Particularly  looking at using titanium copper alloys for hip implants as they have theoretically high strength and copper has a strong antibacterial effect preventing biofilms from building up, which could otherwise cause infection. In the summer of 2020 he also did a summer project on small scale mechanical testing of titanium ruthenium alloys. In that project he created a FEM small punch model which I validated successfully and produced two potential titanium ruthenium bcc superalloys.

Edward Alborghetti

Ed studies MEng Materials Engineering. He completed a summer internship in 2020 looking at the development of ferritic superalloys in turbine applications. The masters project is researching new methods for ductile brittle transition (DBT) testing of tungsten working with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Joe Allison

Joe is studying for a MEng in Nuclear Engineering, his masters project focuses on the capabilities of nano-structured materials as a medium for long term hydrogen storage, focusing mainly on the Ti-Fe and potential ternary additions.
Over the summer of 2020, Joe completed a placement at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in which he investigated methods to measure sub-critical crack growth in fused silica; with his project work involving a finite element analysis to determine geometries that would accurately predict sub-critical crack growth parameters in a biaxial stress state.