The rail sector presents a particular safety challenge for hydrogen and fuel cell systems due to comparatively larger inventory, confinement of storage, high speed and vibrations, currently accepted large hydrogen flow rate from thermally activated release devices (TPRDs), passengers located in vicinity to high-pressure hydrogen storage and exposed to potential pressure and thermal effects, narrower rail tunnels cross-section profile preventing quick hydrogen dispersion below low flammability limit (and thus creating conditions for flammable envelope deflagration), etc.

This PhD project will start with a review of relevant hazards, available safety strategies and engineering solutions for high-pressure hydrogen storage in rail applications. Relevant to rail accidents and the design of hydrogen-powered trains information will be critically analysed. Innovative safety strategies and engineering solutions will be proposed and corresponding incident scenarios will be simulated to demonstrate reduction of hazards and associated risks. This includes engineering solutions for TPRD and hydrogen venting lines design, etc. Fire onboard a hydrogen-fuelled train while in a tunnel presents the worst credible accident scenario. Consequences of incidents in tunnels of various shape, span and height will be investigated in terms of pressure (overpressure, impulse) and thermal (temperature, heat flux, thermal dose) effects on life and train.

Particular attention will be paid to hydrogen jet flame impact on rail cars and passengers safety, and structural integrity of hydrogen storage compartments under fire conditions. The performance of available engineering solutions, e.g. explosion free in a fire self-venting TPRD-less storage tanks, in arrangements characteristic for hydrogen trains will be studied to formulate requirements for their safe operation in normal and fire conditions.

The successful candidate will undertake this doctoral study at HySAFER Centre, one of the key providers of hydrogen safety research and education globally. S(he) will focus on theoretical and numerical modelling with the use of relevant ANSYS software and the Northern Ireland High-Performance Computing (NI-HPC) Kelvin-2 cluster. The results of this doctoral research will be used to support HySAFER’s externally funded projects, reported at international conferences, and published in peer-reviewed journals.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,840 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship is available to UK, EU and overseas applicants.

Recommended reading

1. HM Government, UK Hydrogen strategy, August 2021, (accessed 15 December 2021)

2. HM Government, The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, (accessed 15 December 2021)

3. Molkov, V. Fundamentals of Hydrogen Safety, 2012, (assessed 15 December 2021).

4. Molkov V., Dery W., The blast wave decay correlation for hydrogen tank rupture in a tunnel fire, Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 2020, V.45(55), pp. 31289-31302,

5. Ruf Y., Zorn T., De Nevet P.A., et al., Study on the use of fuel cells and hydrogen in the railway environment, Report 1: State of the art & business case and market potential, SHIFT2RAIL (Europe's Rail Joint Undertaking), 2019, (accessed 15 December 2021).

6. Ruf Y., Zorn T., De Nevet P.A., et al., Study on the use of fuel cells and hydrogen in the railway environment, Report 3: Overcoming technological and non-technological barriers to widespread use of FCH in rail applications, recommendations on future R-and-I, SHIFT2RAIL (Europe's Rail Joint Undertaking), 2019, (accessed 15 December 2021).

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


I had an interesting time at Ulster University, Jordanstown. Many thanks to all the lecturers, library staff and research school for their time and effort getting me through my PhD!

Philip Bradley - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My primary research interests focus on sustainable construction materials for the delivery of environmentally responsible building and infrastructure systems. Within that field, I am particularly interested in the combination of geopolymer binders and recycled aggregates as construction materials with a balance among technical, environmental and economic factors.I would like to express my appreciation to my supervisors and the technicians/staffs at School of Built Environment, for their consistent support, valuable feedback, attention to details, patience and encouragement during my PhD course.

An Huynh - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

This journey is quite a challenge for me. I am proud of me finally getting through my PhD. And I’ll never forget the valuable memories that Ulster University has given me, the people, the beautiful sceneries, the happiness, the language improvement, and the hard work. ​​I would like to express my sincere thank you to my supervisors, my colleagues, my friends and my family. I couldn't have got through my PhD without your help and support. I know that you will continue to pay attention to my growth path in the future and be happy with my achievements. So, I’ll take all the knowledge I have learned and keep on working for a better future.​

Shurui Wang - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My proudest moment was when I was accepted to pursue my PhD in Ulster University. My favourite memory was how I met my group of friends who also pursue their dreams in this foreign country. I'll never forget the tough times I underwent during my study, but thanks to those times that I finally managed to lose weight. I couldn't have got through this without my supervisors' support, kind encouragement and firmest trust. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be - do not procrastinate, you gotta learn to move forward in life when you feel stuck.

Mengmeng Dou - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I came to Ulster University to challenge myself with a PhD study under Vice-Chancellor's Research Studentship at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning. My supervisors helped me much from giving valuable guidance to supporting any difficulties, which makes me feel that I am the luckiest student.I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors, family, friends and colleagues for supporting me tirelessly. Without you, I couldn't have got through my PhD with some great achievements:Best PhD Research Paper in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning, Ulster UniversityBest Student Paper Award at the conference of World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2017, San Francisco, USA.Student Registration Grant for demonstrating academic excellence in research at 17th International Conference on Sustainable Technologies (SET 2018), China.

Khoa Xuan Le - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My academic background includes a MSc in Process Safety Technology, in which my topic of thesis involved the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. This prompted me to further my knowledge in this field by embarking on a PhD at the HySAFER institute at Ulster University. Here, I conducted research on the consequences of stored hydrogen tank rupture in confined space, with the use of computational fluid dynamics.My proudest moment in all of this was informing my parents, not only for being accepted as a PhD researcher at Ulster University, but also after three years that it was indeed completed. It goes without saying that without the guidance and support from my supervisors, the companionship created by my fellow colleagues with whom I shared an office with, and the people otherwise encountered and befriended during this period, the light at the end of the tunnel of it all would have rather been a train. And for that, I will be forever grateful and all the attained memories preserved

Wulme Dery - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I worked for 35 years for the Housing Executive - latterly as its Head of Research. I had completed an MSc in Urban Policy in the 2000s - and it had been a longstanding ambition of mine to complete a PhD that brought together a number of strands of policy-related research that had been of particular interest to me. Undertaking a PhD at Ulster University allowed me to fulfil this ambition in an enjoyable manner.Completing my PhD has brought me an immense amount of personal satisfaction. A major part of this was down to the incredible support I received from my two supervisors Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr Michael McCord. Their ongoing advice, encouragement and support helped take me outside my comfort zone and played a major part in my achievement. Even my viva proved to be an enjoyable experience and enabled me to feel that I had gained a level of expertise in a sphere that could make a small but significant contribution to addressing some of the key housing issues facing policy

Joe Frey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I am a senior researcher at Korea Fire Institute which is a state-owned company specialised at fire safety engineering in the Republic of Korea. I obtained BSc and MSc in mechanical engineering. Prior to enter a PhD course at the School of the Built Environment in Ulster University, I worked for over a decade in the engineering industry. With relation to my PhD topic, my current research field is on fire safety using experimental and numerical approaches.Finally, I finished my study in Ulster University and became a Doctor of Philosophy in a field of fire safety!! There were a lot of good memories at Ulster University. I will never forget the rainbow on the Jordanstown campus which helps me to relieve my stress caused by stuck in concrete damaged plasticity theory. I felt great when receiving an annual PhD conference award as the best poster. I was excited to spent time with my officemates, Rumeel, and Emmanuel. I love every moment at Room 4B01 because it was a time to enhance my

Ohk Kun Lim - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I am a Swiss citizen, grew up in Papua New Guinea and graduated from Ukarumpa International Schools. I was trained and certified as a Swiss cabinetmaker and hold a Swiss diploma in electrical engineering from the Bern University of applied Science. In the past ten years I have been employed at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and have performed research in the field of energy conversion and storage. Research activities include; Alkali water electrolysis, metal hydride hydrogen storage, PEM fuel cell and stack development, catalytic oxidation of hydrogen for high temperature heat (cooking), energy systems for autarky living and liquid sorption heat storage. I lead the subtask Components and Systems of the IEA, SHC Program, Task 58 ‘Material and Component Development for Thermal Energy Storage’ and have performed a part time external PhD at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment in the development of a heat and mass

Benjamin Fumey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I studied my Integrated Masters (MSci) at Jordanstown from 2008-2012. After a few years working as an Estate Agent, I went back to academia to complete my PhD, looking at the broad area of health within the field of planning.Many PhDs are given a topic to begin with, however when I applied for the PhD scholarship I had to create my own research topic. This took me a while to establish, but eventually my hard work paid off and I narrowed my research into an area I am truly proud of - Active living, how the built environment can influence physical activity and how this was interpreted in the domains listed in my thesis title. My favourite aspect of the PhD was presenting my research and getting the acknowledgment from other academics that my research was interesting, robust and well thought out. I submitted an abstract to AESOP, an annual planning conference, and was given the opportunity to present my work in Venice. I also presented my work to the president of RTPI. There is nothing

Owen Hawe - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning