Hydrogen fuelled vehicles are being deployed as a part of the deep decarbonisation strategy. Hydrogen fuelled cars are expected to provide the same level of experience and comfort as fossil fuel vehicles including driving range of at least 400-500 km, which requires 4-5 kg of hydrogen onboard of a car. Use of gaseous hydrogen stored in composite pressure vessels at pressures 700 bar and higher is the main-stream solution for onboard hydrogen storage including light-, medium and heavy-duty transport applications. Fire resistance of modern composite tanks is about 3-12 minutes, which makes rupture of such tanks a major safety challenge in case of pressure relief device failure.  Blast wave and fireball following the high-pressure tank rupture in a fire represent its major pressure and thermal hazards threatening life and property losses.

Analysis of experimental data proves that the car deformation and displacement (1) expends significant amount of mechanical energy of compressed hydrogen, (2) affects hydrogen combustion and fireball dynamics. Thus, hazards analysis methods developed for open atmosphere tank rupture, including Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models, are not applicable to real onboard storage (often mounted under a vehicle). Analysis of car deformation and displacement is essential to predict pressure and thermal loads on humans and structures, which is typically accounted using Finite Element Methods (FEM).

The project aims to develop a coupled CFD-FEM model applicable to analysis of onboard tank rupture in a wide range of conditions – tank volume, pressure, mounting position on a vehicle; vehicle location (open atmosphere, workshop, tunnel etc.). ANSYS family of Fluid and Structure computational tools will be used as a platform for model development. Experimental data available in the literature and to be obtained in ongoing FCH-JU HyTunnel-CS project will be used for the model validation.

Outcomes of this project will inform car OEMs, health and safety authorities, fire and rescue services about hazards of potential fire accidents with hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.  The research results will feed development of engineering methodology to assess blast wave overpressure and fireball size in the event of catastrophic tank rupture and development of appropriate prevention and mitigation strategies.

This is a 4-year integrated PhD project funded via Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Hydrogen (CDT SusHy). The CDT is a collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham, Loughborough, Birmingham and Ulster. The Centre has four overarching centre objectives:

1.Deliver high quality transdisciplinary training, covering fundamental science, applied engineering, and systems issues and build an appreciation of societal barriers to innovation.

2.Through innovation opportunities, build initiative and stimulate an entrepreneurial mind-set.

3.Deliver “industry ready” doctorates who have a comprehensive skill set and experiences.

4.Co-create research ideas and undertake in partnership with our stakeholders, cutting edge investigations of hydrogen-based solutions to deep decarbonisation of the energy systems.

The Centre is seeking to train at least 67 PhDs across five years of intake to achieve the mass uptake of hydrogen technologies in the UK and beyond.  Further project information is available here.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.


These fully funded scholarships include a tax-free stipend of £16,909 per annum, subject to satisfactory progress over a 4 year period, tuition fees, and a research budget. These awards are open to home/EU and overseas applicants.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Profile picture of Philip Bradley

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

Profile picture of Mengmeng Dou

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

Profile picture of Khoa Xuan Le

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

Profile picture of Joe Frey

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

Profile picture of Ohk Kun Lim

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

Profile picture of Benjamin Fumey

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

Profile picture of Owen Hawe

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