Technology of Fusion Energy

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Local:$ 8.85 k / Year(s) Foreign:$ 27.4 k / Year(s) Deadline: Nov 18, 2023
1 place StudyQA ranking:2207 Duration:4 years

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The Science and Technology of Fusion Energy EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (Fusion CDT) programme is provided by a collaboration between five UK universities (York, Oxford, Durham, Liverpool and Manchester), several other research organisations including Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Central Laser Facility, National Nuclear Laboratory, AWE, National Ignition Facility, ITER and Fusion for Energy, and industry such as Frazer-Nash and AMEC. 

Graduate destinations

There are a number of specialist careers open to Fusion CDT graduates and, more generally, Oxford graduates with a DPhil in Materials are highly regarded by a wide range of employers, including universities, high-tech start-up companies, engineering consultancies, industry (including aerospace, electronics, automotive, steel manufacture, medical and household products sectors), world-famous technology companies, schools and colleges, and the financial and business sectors. 

The Fusion CDT provides training from world-leading experts in a range of fusion-relevant disciplines: materials science, plasma physics, nuclear physics, technology, laser physics, instrumentation, etc. It will train at least 77 PhD students in disciplines related to fusion energy over five intakes from 2014 to 2018 and for each year a significant number of fully-funded four-year PhD studentships will be available.

Other than the times when you are taking courses as part of the Fusion CDT cohort, students following the Oxford Science and Technology of Fusion Energy EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training programme work, train and study alongside students undertaking the DPhil in Materials, together forming an Oxford cohort of research students in materials.

You will have access to a range of fusion energy facilities across the UK, including the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the MAST and JET tokamaks at Culham in Oxfordshire, advanced materials research facilities, the Orion laser and high performance computing facilities. International links provide access to many other fusion devices around the world.

The combination of world-leading experts and world-class facilities creates an outstanding training environment for the next generation of fusion scientists - the generation who may exploit ITER, NIF and other international experiments to make fusion energy a reality.

As a student on the Oxford DPhil in Science and Technology of Fusion Energy (EPSRC CDT) programme you will be part of one of the top-ranked materials departments in the world. The vibrant research school consists of around 28 academic staff, 13 Senior Research Fellows, and around 180 research students and 86 post-doctoral researchers. The department's research students are of many nationalities and come from diverse backgrounds, both graduates in the traditional subjects of materials science, physics, chemistry and engineering and also in mathematics, earth sciences and biology.

The programme is normally carried out in four years of full-time study under the supervision of an experienced member of staff. It is examined at the end of the programme by means of a written thesis and an oral examination. A wide range of exciting DPhil projects is available. The first eighteen months is a probationary period during which you undertake various taught courses specific to the Fusion CDT cohort, soon after which, subject to satisfactory progress, students normally transfer to full DPhil status. A second formal assessment of progress takes place later in the programme, normally early in the fourth year. Details of the DPhil programme, including training opportunities (academic courses, research-specific skills and generic transferable career skills) and progression requirements, can be found in the graduate course handbook.

Research interests in the department extend over most branches of materials science, as well as some aspects of solid state physics and chemistry. These include the study of a wide range of materials of relevance in advanced technological applications, including metals and alloys, composites, semi- and super-conductors, polymers, biomaterials, ceramics and materials for quantum information processing.

Much of the research is carried out in close collaboration with industry. World-leading research takes place on:

  • the characterisation of materials, where there is emphasis on electron microscopy and related techniques
  • processing and manufacturing of materials
  • modelling of materials, where there is attention to both structures and processes
  • properties of materials
  • energy materials, including those for batteries, nuclear fusion and photovoltaics
  • quantum information processing, which includes groups working on experimental studies, theory and modelling.

Fusion materials research at the University of Oxford

The plasma-facing components and breeding blanket of any future fusion tokamak will be subjected to one of the most extreme engineering environments possible. Materials will experience temperatures of up to 1200C in steady state and 3300C in transient events, and irradiation with 14MeV neutrons, causing displacement damage, transmutation giving rise to compositional changes, and internal H and He generation, plasma facing surfaces also can have  high erosion rates due to interactions with the fusion plasma. Ideally, the materials should not retain tritium or themselves transmute to long-lived radioactive isotopes. For fusion to be feasible as an economic power source, the materials must be able to survive these conditions, retaining usable thermal and mechanical properties, for five years or more.

Materials of current interest include special “reduced activation” steels, tungsten alloys and composites, molybdenum alloys, copper alloys and silicon carbide.

The University offers a range of projects, both experimental and modelling, on the processing, joining, microstructure, mechanical properties, and resistance to radiation damage of these materials.

Projects will use a range of specialised research techniques, usually in combination:

  • advanced processing, coating and joining methods (mechanical alloying, rapid solidification, spray forming, additive manufacture, friction-stir welding)
  • irradiation of materials by high-energy ion-beams, protons and neutrons.
  • electron microscopy of microstructures, and radiation damage effects, including in-situ irradiations, and field-ion microscopy of radiation damage
  • microanalysis by atom-probe tomography and electron-optical methods
  • X-ray diffraction including use of the diamond light source mechanical testing, including micromechanics, over a wide temperature range
  • computer modelling of radiation damage effects, deformation and microstructural development.

Many projects are carried out in close collaboration with the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy; in the course of projects starting in 2014 and thereafter, the CDT is expected to make use of the newly-commissioned hot cells at the Materials Research Facility at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a suitable science subject; normally this subject would be one of materials science, chemistry, physics or mathematics, but could include other subjects depending on the area of research chosen.

For candidates offering a UK bachelor's degree or UK integrated undergraduate master's degree normally we require an overall grade of at least 65%. As examples of international equivalents to this requirement: for the US system we normally regard a GPA of 3.6 out of 4.0 on a four-year bachelor's programme as equivalent and for the Chinese system we normally regard an overall degree mark of 85% on a four-year bachelor's degree programme as equivalent.

In some countries at least some of the bachelor's degrees are not acceptable for direct progression to a PhD in that country; normally such degrees are not acceptable for entry to this programme unless the candidate also holds or expects to achieve a master's degree with an overall mark equivalent to at least 65% in a UK taught master's degree.

Normally the required qualification(s) must be achieved by the date of commencement of the research programme for which you have applied.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

  • Official transcript(s)
  • CV/résumé
  • Statement of purpose/personal statement:400 words, accompanied by a list of preferred projects and supervisors
  • References/letters of recommendation:Three overall, generally academic


Higher level


Standard level scores

Higher level scores

IELTS Academic 
Institution code: 0713

7.0 Minimum 6.5 per component  7.5  Minimum 7.0 per component 

Institution code: 0490


Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) 185

Minimum 176 per component


Minimum 185 per component

Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) 185

Minimum 176 per component


Minimum 185 per component

  • Global Education
  • Hill Foundation Scholarships
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