YPLC Parsons Conference finalist - Minal Patel

Minal graduated from Swansea University, UK, in 2017 with a first-class honour’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering and was awarded the Hugh O’Neil Award for her dissertation research BiVO4 & Cu2O Janus Particles: Towards Solar Energy. Following this, she enrolled as an EngD student at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Micro- and Nanomaterials at the University of Surrey, UK, and has just completed her second year on a National Physical Laboratory-sponsored project. Her research work involves investigating failure mechanisms of thermal barrier coatings on gas turbine engines through advanced characterisation techniques under the supervision of Dr Mark Baker, Prof John Watts and Mr Tony Fry. She has already presented at national and international conferences, winning prizes for her presentations.

While working as a doctoral student, she has volunteered as the Treasurer and Secretary of the Surrey Materials Student Forum and is currently the Vice-Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology's London Young Professional Network. She regularly takes part in outreach events and mentoring, including being an exhibitor at New Scientist Live and Royal Society Summer Exhibitions. She is also a member of the Mayor's London Scientist scheme, mentoring student-led projects to help them attain the Bronze Crest Award. She has also organised a conference for postgraduate students. Outside of STEM, Minal is multi-lingual and is currently learning Arabic. Her other hobbies include yoga, running, dancing and cooking.

Micro-mechanical testing of aged thermal barrier coatings

There is a continual drive to operate engines and power plants in harsher conditions, such as higher temperatures, with more aggressive fuels, more thermal cycling, etc, to improve efficiency and to underpin the increased use of renewables. The aerospace and energy industries need to be able to develop their materials to perform in these increasingly severe operating environments. The development of coatings for protection against corrosion and oxidation, as well as thermal protection, has facilitated their increased use on turbine components. These high-temperature coatings have complex microstructures that are highly dependent on the manufacturing process, making their lifetime difficult to predict and therefore reducing reliability in their application and maintainability. During the service of a thermal barrier coating (TBCs), a thermally grown oxide (TGO) layer develops between the bond coat and the top coat. Typically, failure and cracking occur close to this TGO layer. It is useful to examine these cracks using conventional microscopy techniques, however, this does not provide a fully representative understanding of the crack morphology and path in the sample.

Focused ion beam (FIB) tomography can be used to characterise the crack properties in three dimensions. Furthermore, micromechanical testing, such as hot nano-indentation, micro-pillar compression tests and micro-cantilever tests, can be performed to understand how the degradation in the localised mechanical properties and changes in chemistry near and through the crack govern its path.

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