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Dalton Nuclear Institute

Machinery in Dalton Cumbria Facility

Study in Cumbria

On the fringes of the Lake District National Park with friendly communities and a low cost of living, West Cumbria is a stunning environment in which to work and study.

Basing yourself at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility enables you to conduct research in an outstanding academic environment with proximity to industry while enjoying this unique and beautiful setting.

Explore study and training opportunities in Cumbria below.

PhD opportunities

Influencing policy

As a UK flagship radiation sciences laboratory, we directly influence national policy decisions. This is one of the ways in which our work makes a difference to people’s lives.

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility combines academic excellence with proximity to the nuclear industry in a truly collaborative environment. Our excellent radiation equipment and purpose-built facilities are situated in the exceptionally scenic West Cumbrian countryside.

Our researchers benefit from our international standing and global collaborations, with travel bursaries available.

We welcome talented graduates from a wide range of STEM backgrounds to our multidisciplinary research program; our expertise locally includes nanotechnology, geology, radiation-physics, radiation-chemistry and nuclear engineering.

We value inclusivity and cooperation, and welcome applications from all backgrounds to join our diverse team.

Placements and outreach

One of the University's key objectives is to be socially responsible; to engage with our community, to add value and inspire young minds. This extends to West Cumbria through the Dalton Cumbrian Facility's programme of placements and outreach activity.

Current placement opportunities 

Summer placements for 2023

Start date: From June 2023 (dates negotiable)

Duration: 6 weeks

Location: Dalton Cumbrian Facility, Westlakes Science Park

Those taking up the placements will have an opportunity to engage in using our world-leading radiation equipment and purpose-built facilities situated in the exceptionally scenic West Cumbrian countryside. This is a stunning and special environment in which to work, with a low cost of living and easy access to the coast and Lake District National Park.

General requirements

  • Applicants should be studying a STEM subject at University or recently graduated from the same and also be eligible to work in the UK. A-Level students may be considered in exceptional cases.
  • Good laboratory/computer and analytical thinking skills.
  • Patience, dedication, time management skills and the ability to work under one’s own initiative.
  • Effective communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Projects available

Read more about the projects available


The successful candidate will be paid £10.93 per hour based on a 35-hour working week.

How to apply

To apply, please send a current CV (2 pages max), a list of the projects you wish to apply for in order of preference, your preferred start and finish dates, and a single paragraph outlining what qualities you have which will make you particularly successful in your time with us.

Applications should be sent by email to with the subject header 'Summer placements' for consideration by 5pm on Wednesday 17 May 2023. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview in mid-June, dates can be flexible to accommodate exams and other commitments.

Interviews may be in person at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility or via an appropriate digital platform, e.g. Zoom or Teams.

Past projects

Examples of past projects can be found below.

Automated control of radiation driven processes

When conducting research involving radiation beams, practically a considerable amount of time is used changing samples or doing other pre/post-irradiation processing steps. For radiation safety reasons the samples are in an interlocked room which researchers enter/leave through a time consuming search process. In order to over-come this limitation in a flexible manner, we wish to develop a number of low-cost, interchangeable sample control components such as syringe pumps, sample carrousels, movable sample stages etc. Examples of these components can be found on the AIP website.

The successful candidate will be involved in designing some of these elements, 3D printing the sub-assemblies which are not commercially available. Control software will be developed in Python with the goal being to provide a user-friendly library for the components developed for future researchers. The successful candidate will also be able to use the components developed in characterisation experiments involving irradiation of samples.

Developing high activity palladium electrocatalysts using radiation techniques

In the field of heterogeneous catalysis, great attention is given to enhancing catalytic properties by the highly dispersed deposition of an active metal onto a support. As such, the development of an efficient preparation method to produce a highly dispersed active species on a support with a large specific surface is of particular importance.

In this project, the successful candidate will prepare, using DCF’s irradiation sources, a range of electrocatalysts composed of dispersed Pd nanoparticles (NPs) immobilised on a range of supports.

To verify the role of a template in varying both the size of the Pd NPs and the degree of metal dispersion, the three 2D carbon supports (ie: graphene, graphene oxide, and nitrogen-doped graphene) will be examined and the resulting nanocomposites will be characterised by electron microscopy (SEM and TEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), N2 physisorption, and inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) techniques.

Finally, liquid-phase electrocatalytic survey for the oxidation of glucose will be conducted using as-prepared Pd catalysts to determine the effect of the Pd catalyst structure on the catalytic activity and selectivity.

Fabrication of Au-MoS2 hybrid materials by the ion beam impregnation for catalysis applications

Electrocatalytic water splitting requires the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER, 2H+ + 2e- → H2) to occur readily. Catalytic performance of MoS2 in HER is fundamentally limited by the density and reactivity of active sites, as well as poor electron transport in this 2D material. Nevertheless, MoS2 based catalysts can achieve high activity for the hydrogen evolution reaction if their surface is appropriately modified.

The desired enhancement of the catalytic activity can be accomplished by either increasing the number of reactive edge sites or by promoting the activity of the MoS2 basal planes via a controlled creation of sulphur vacancies.

The proposed project will explore the radiation induced synthesis of Au-MoS2 hybrids via implantation of gold ions into the molybdenum disulphide substrate; this treatment is expected to improve the HER catalytic activity of MoS2 material.

In addition to direct implantation of gold, we are going to take advantage of radiation induced modification of the MoS2 surface to promote the controllable growth of Au nanoparticles to further enhance the catalytic activity of Au-MoS2 hybrid nanocomposite, for which we will follow the procedure described in the literature.

Manufacture of radioactive nanoparticles involving transmuted ions

Based on published methodologies, the successful candidate will develop and optimise nanoparticle synthesis techniques using non-radioactive salts. Once these have been demonstrated to work, the candidate will make short-lived radioactive isotopes (eg: Cu-64) using the Dalton Cumbrian Facility’s ion accelerator to transmute stable elements.

The transmuted isotopes will then be used to make nanoparticles of potential use in nuclear medicine, eg: as PET tracers or next-generation theranostics. The final step of the project will be to successfully demonstrate that radioactive nanoparticles were indeed manufactured.

Performance of structural concrete

Structural concrete plays an important role in the nuclear industry as it acts as a biological shield in nuclear power plants and as confinement for nuclear waste. Recent news coverage of extended outages at three power plants in Belgium demonstrate that the performance of concrete under extreme conditions, although a widely used building material, is not fully understood.

This project will involve the use of a self-shielded gamma irradiator to investigate the performance of structural concrete under certain conditions.

Concrete is known to react with atmospheric CO2 over time, forming various mineral phases and leading to degradation of the material. You’ll use a carbonation chamber to accelerate and control the carbonation process and then irradiate the samples to determine how gamma radiation affects the ongoing carbonation process.

You may also have the option to assess how the composition of the concrete affects the carbonation process. A chemical dye will be used to determine the extent of carbonation along with x-ray diffraction (XRD) to determine which mineral phases are present and quantify them, with guidance from a PhD researcher.

Data analysis will be carried out using standard XRD software which may then be exported for further analysis – an understanding of a programming language such as python would be an advantage. You may also have the option to use analytical techniques such as spectroscopy and microscopy.

The outcomes of this project are of interest to several organisations, including Sellafield Limited and the National Nuclear Laboratory.

Radiolytic hydrogen bubble formation

A proper understanding of radiolytic hydrogen generation is required to underpin safety cases related to Magnox waste currently held in storage ponds in the form of sludges.

Using brucite sludge simulants and external radiation beams we have produced hydrogen radiolytically sufficient to saturate the water with hydrogen and then to produce micro-bubbles. An X-ray image showing sample density indicates that these bubbles grow and sometimes merge as progressively more hydrogen is liberated.

This project will involve developing automated image analysis tools to determine the centres and sizes of the observed bubbles as they grow.

This tool will then be used to mine the available data to parametrise the dynamics of bubble formation. There will then be an opportunity to develop a model describing the dynamics of hydrogen bubble formation in sludges.