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Architectural optimization of nacre-like alumina
Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble
Materials Science 
Full Description:

High strength and high toughness are usually mutually exclusive in structural materials. Resolving this contradiction is an important challenge for many applications, in particular for energy and aeronautics where there is a high demand for strong and damage-resistant refractory materials. Recently, LSFC (Ceramics Synthesis and Functionalization Laboratory, CNRS/Saint Gobain research unit) has developed an innovative processing route remarkably efficient at creating strong and tough brick and mortar microstructures bio-inspired by the architecture of the nacreous part of seachells [1]. This work can be seen as a proof of concept and the next step is now to bring these “nacre-like” materials to their optimum through a rational optimization and control of their microstructure.
The proposed thesis aims at modeling the fracture behavior of “nacre-like” materials using the Discrete Element Method (DEM) to gain a better understanding of reinforcement mechanisms and structure/properties relationships. Ultimately, the simulations will be used to optimize the microstructure. DEM, first developed for granular materials, is also very efficient at modeling damage and fracture behavior of bulk porous [2] or composite materials [3].
The anticipated work is mainly numerical, but some experimental tasks are considered in collaboration with LSFC (elaboration, 3D characterization and mechanical testing). This PhD thesis is a unique opportunity to work on the very active and dynamic research field of bio-inspiration while developing expertise in material modeling.

Anticipated work program
- Generation of realistic numerical microstructures based on 3D X-ray or FIB/SEM tomographies. A short stay at LSFC is considered to elaborate nacre-like materials.
- Implementation, calibration and validation of appropriate contact laws based on experimental data. Special attention will be given to the modeling of the “mortar” phase.
- Material optimization.
The DEM code dp3D (in-house code) and/or LIGGGHTS (open-source) will be used. New features will have to be developed and implemented to handle brick and mortar architecture.

Candidates are expected to have strong background and interest in solid mechanics, fracture mechanics, modeling in material science and numerical methods (programming).

[1] Bouville, F. et al. Strong, tough and stiff bioinspired ceramics from brittle constituents. Nat. Mater. 13, 508–14 (2014).
[2] Jauffres, D., Martin, C. L., Lichtner, A. & Bordia, R. K. Simulation of the toughness of partially sintered ceramics with realistic microstructures. Acta Mater. 60, 4685 (2012).
[3] Zhang, W., Telle, R. & Uebel, J. R-curve behaviour in weak interface-toughened SiC-C laminates by discrete element modelling. J. Eur. Ceram. Soc. 34, 217–227 (2014).

Starting date: Sept. 2015
Host Laboratory: SIMaP / Grenoble - France


Posted on: 12 May 2015Deadline to apply: 31 May 2015Start Date: 01 September 2015 Duration: 36 months
The Fund category is Public Funding - University and the salary is 20-25k€ annual gross
Doctoral School is IMEP2: Engineering - Materials - Environment - Energetics - Procedures - Production in the Rhône-Alpes Region.

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