PhD opportunity: Developing high performance, durable graphene oxide concrete for structural applications in the coastal environment

Supervisory team

Director of studies: Dr Boksun Kim

2nd supervisor: Dr Maozhou Meng

3rd supervisor: Professor Monica Craciun (University of Exeter)

4th supervisor: Professor Ningzhong Bao  (Nanjing Tech University)

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2019.

Project description

The aim of this PhD is to develop high performance, durable concrete for structures in coastal environments by the application of tailor-made graphene oxide concrete to support construction sustainability. Concrete used in marine environments faces severe challenges. Traditional concrete is very brittle, which can lead to micro-cracks and void gaps. Cracks can cause serious damage to concrete structures, in particular, those exposed to coastal environments since sea salt can induce chloride ingress and allow penetration into the concrete. This chloride infiltration corrodes the steel reinforcements in the concrete. The corrosion can damage the strength, aesthetics and serviceability of structures. The utilisation of high performance concrete is hence required. Ever since its discovery in 2004, graphene has provided a new way to solve the issues that concrete faces in harsh environments due to graphene’s exceptional mechanical, thermal, optical and electrical properties, and electrical conductivity. It is an ideal nano-filler that can modify the cementitious material, although it is hard to synthesize and very expensive at present. It can be synthesized to Graphene Oxide (GO): layered graphite interspersed with oxygen molecules around its plane and edges called functional groups and then exfoliated into single-layer and few-layer GO sheets. Addition of a small amount of GO into a concrete mix can improve significantly the resistance of concrete to chloride and sulphate attacks. Hence, it will enhance the durability of concrete. The objectives of this PhD are:

  • determine the optimum method of synthesis and dispersion of GO in concrete to be used for structures in coastal environments,  
  • conduct rapid chloride migration tests to determine the effect of the incorporation of GO on the chloride penetration and diffusivity of concrete,
  • investigate the resistance of GO concrete to porosity and water sorptivity using the natural capillary absorption test,
  • develop a numerical model, which can be used to predict the durability of GO concrete and forecast the material deterioration when subjected to chloride attack,
  • establish guidelines for the selection of key input parameters for the service life design of GO concrete.                                               

This PhD study will be supported by an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary team of supervisors, covering Nanoscience and civil, mechanical and chemical engineering.


Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second-class honours degree in civil, structural or architectural engineering and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification.


The studentship is supported for three years and includes full Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,009 per annum.

Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £12,285 per annum).

How to apply

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Boksun Kim. However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

General information about applying for a research degree at the University of Plymouth.

You can apply via the online application form and selecting ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Aimee McNeillie, clearly stating that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Engineering. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV, research statement, and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process contact Ms Aimee McNeillie.

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 31 May 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview mid June. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 June 2019 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.