Novel Low Carbon Concrete for Fire Resistance applications. Engineering PhD Studentship (Funded) Ref: 3115

About the award

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants.  The studentship funding is provided for up to 42 months (3.5 years)

Ten generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, 5 offered by the University of Exeter and 5 by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of:  Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 26 May 2018 (GMT), with interviews taking place between 25 June and 6 July 2018.  The start date will be January 2019.

Please note that of the 10 Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to 5 studentships will be awarded.


Exeter Academic Lead:  Dr Raffaele Vinai

Queensland Academic Lead:  Dr Vinh Dao

Project Description

The environmental sustainability of buildings depends on a range of parameters, with the main two drivers being the use pattern of the structures (in terms of energy demands) and the embodied energy (and related emissions) of the materials used for construction.
Concrete is the second most used substance in the world, possessing many key highly desirable properties such as local availability, easiness to cast in different shapes and high mechanical strength. The vast majority of concrete is manufactured using Portland cement (PC), whose production in 2017 has been estimated at 4.1 billion tonnes worldwide. However, production of PC has negative impacts in terms of CO2 emissions (about 8% of the total CO2 emissions is directly related to PC production). About 0.8 – 1 tonne of CO2 is emitted per each tonne of PC produced. Alkali Activated Cements (AAC) are a class of materials produced by the reaction of a raw aluminosilicate material (precursor) with an alkali activator. These materials have the potential of significantly reducing the CO2 emissions of the building sector - Recent research developments have clearly demonstrated the possibility of sourcing a vast majority of ingredients for AAC production directly from waste/by-products, thus hugely reducing the CO2 footprint of concrete. Due to their intrinsic material structure, AAC are superior to PC in applications where fire resistance is required.

The project will investigate the development of low carbon concrete for fire resistance applications. The use of AAC in Civil Engineering has been hindered by the cost of materials (mainly attributed to activators), lack of knowledge on performance, lack of standards for their use. Research will be carried out targeting main objectives as follows: (a) to optimise novel, low-cost and low-carbon routes for the sourcing of activators; (b) To optimise the mix proportioning of concretes for structural and non-structural applications; (c) To test the fire performance of the developed materials according to novel test protocols; (d) To assess the microstructural modifications of materials due to fire exposure; (e) To develop numerical modelling for assessing the thermomechanical behaviour of the developed materials; (f) To assess the environmental benefits of the developed materials compared to traditional concrete through life cycle and life cost analyses.

The PhD researcher will be exposed to a range of different approaches (concrete technology, advance testing techniques, numerical modelling and life cycle analysis), giving her/him a complete set of skills beneficial for her/his employability in the building industry or in research institutions.


Application deadline:26th May 2018
Value: Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcripts and details of two academic referees. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified on 20 June 2018, and must be available for interview between 25 June and 6 July 2018

Please quote reference 3115 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BA or BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.