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PhD in Fatigue crack growth rate of squat defects in rails

PhD in Fatigue crack growth rate of squat defects in rails

Are you our next PhD aiming to develop models to estimate the fatigue crack growth rate of squat defects in railway rails?
Built Environment
Graduate Program(s)
Architecture, Building and Planning
Date off
Reference number

Job description

A PhD position is offered within the Department of the Built Environment of the Eindhoven University of Technology. After four years of research, you can obtain a PhD degree.  

The research aims to develop models and methods for improving the prediction of the fatigue crack growth rate of squat defects in railway rails. Squat defects are the most frequently occurring type of rolling contact fatigue cracks that is found in the railway network. Once detected, these defects are classified into different categories depending on their size, and actions are taken to guarantee the safe use of the infrastructure. In the case of severe defects, these actions concern the immediate train speed reduction and replacement of the defective rail, causing large costs for the society, traffic disruptions, and the impossibility of allocating maintenance resources.  
An analytical model should be developed to predict the remaining fatigue life, based on fracture mechanics. The model parameters are calibrated through experiments in our laboratory. This aims to support decision-making related to inspection intervals and replacement decisions, instead of relying only on the simple set of fixed replacement rules. The technical and scientific challenges in the proposed project which must be addressed for in the model formulation are: 

  • the complex geometry;
  • the mixed-mode fatigue crack growth;
  • the non-homogeneous material properties;
  • the residual stress field;
  • the boundary and load conditions of the problem;
  • the effect of water and lubricants entrapped in the crack accelerating corrosion and altering crack face friction;
  • the level of constraint.

A successful result is to be able to forecast squat crack propagation taking these aspects into account. The application of the results will be estimating the required inspection intervals after squat detection based on quantitative information resulting from the prediction model.

In this way, it is possible to locally apply specific predictive maintenance to railway tracks in which squat defects are found. Estimating the fatigue crack growth rate, crack orientation, and crack size at the onset of unstable growth is fundamental for determining the inspection intervals, the frequency, and the type of maintenance, of which the extent influences the cost of ownership, the durability, and the availability of the asset, potentially reducing unnecessary traffic disruption.  
The research will be carried out with the support of the research organization TNO and the company ProRail, the Dutch railway infrastructure owner. 

Job requirements

We are looking for:

  • Applicants require to hold an MSc degree in engineering (civil, mechanical, railway, aerospace, or related field).
  • Professional working proficiency in English. A minimum grade of an independent language test is required (TOEFL or IELTS) for all non-native English-speaking candidates who hold a MSc degree from another program than the TU/e. IELTS: Overall grade 7.0 with a minimum sub score of 7.0 for both speaking and writing. TOEFL: Overall band score of at least 90 and a minimum score of 21 for each section. TU/e only accepts the TOEFL internet-based test.

The ideal candidate will meet as many of the following requirements as possible:

  • Have a consolidated background concerning Finite Element Analysis, preferably with applications to fracture and fatigue crack growth.
  • Experience with experimental work in the laboratory, for example concerning material characterization.
  • Knowledge of the railway field.
  • Ability to function in cooperation with industry;
  • Interest in co-supervising MSc projects

Conditions of employment

  • A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university with the possibility to present your work at international conferences.
  • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months.
  • To develop your teaching skills, you will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will make a Training and Supervision plan and you will have free access to a personal development program for PhD students (PROOF program).
  • A gross monthly salary from € 2,395 (first year) to € 3,061 (fourth year) in line with the Collective Agreement for Dutch Universities.
  • In addition, PhD candidates receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end of the year allowance.
  • Should you come from abroad and comply with certain conditions, you can make use of the so-called ‘30% facility’, which permits you not to pay tax on 30% of your salary.
  • A broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, and savings schemes.
  • Family-friendly initiatives are in place, such as an international spouse program, and excellent on-campus children day care and sports facilities.

Information and application

More information

Do you recognize yourself in this profile and would you like to know more? Please contact
assistant prof. Davide Leonetti, d.leonetti[at] 

For information about terms of employment, click here or contact HRServices.BE[at]

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  • Curriculum Vitae, including list of publications (if applicable)
  • Cover letter (2 page max)
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