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Study of stray current induced corrosion in railway construction

Railway electrification represents an important carbon strategy in the UK. It is estimated that an electric train consumes at least 20% less power (per passenger per mile) compared to a diesel-powered train. The UK government is committed to promote railway electrification and thus provide more sustainable and comfortable services for the public.

For a modern electric train traction system, the transmission of power is normally provided by an overhead wire or a conductor rail. The return circuit is usually through the running tracks which are connected to nearby substations. Stray current refers to the current which disperses directly to the ground through the return path. The leakage of stray current to surrounding reinforced concrete structures can lead to steel reinforcement corrosion and the subsequent disintegration of concrete.

The primary objective of this project is to develop a Corrosion Information Modelling (CIM) system which can be used for the prediction of the corrosion state in railway tunnelling construction.

The basis of the research is supported by the principal supervisor who has extensive experience in studying the electrochemical performance of steel reinforced concrete subjected to simulated stray direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) interferences using experimental and analytical approaches.

Possible research methods:

  • Computer simulation including finite element modelling and/or boundary element modelling;
  • Instrumental methods in electrochemistry;
  • Standard concrete mixing and testing.

For more information including the research background, please read [1-6]. 


[1] K. Tang, S. Wilkinson, Corrosion resistance of electrified railway tunnels made of steel fibre reinforced concrete, Construction and Building Materials, 230 (2020) 117006.

[2] K. Tang, Corrosion of Steel Fiber Subjected to Stray Current Interference, ACI Materials Journal, 117 (2020) 99-111.

[3] K. Tang, Corrosion of discontinuous reinforcement in concrete subject to railway stray alternating current, Cement and Concrete Composites, 109 (2020) 103552.

[4] K. Tang, Corrosion of steel fibre reinforced concrete (SFRC) subjected to simulated stray direct (DC) interference, Materials Today Communications, (2019) 100564.

[5] K. Tang, Stray alternating current (AC) induced corrosion of steel fibre reinforced concrete, Corrosion Science, 152 (2019) 153-171.

[6] K. Tang, Stray current induced corrosion to steel fibre reinforced concrete, Cement and Concrete Research, 100 (2017) 445-456.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Kangkang Tang - Dr Kangkang Tang possesses the professional qualification of a chartered civil and structural engineer (CEng MICE IStructE). At Brunel University London, he serves as a senior lecturer, director of teaching and learning, and programme leader for BEng/MEng Civil Engineering courses. Additionally, Dr Tang is actively engaged as a member of the accreditation visiting team for the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM). His primary research interests focus on the enhancement of resilient infrastructure. Motivated by the previous industrial experience, he has conducted extensive study in stray-current-induced corrosion through computer simulations and experimental approaches. This research laid the foundation for this research to further enhance the understanding of stray current-induced corrosion in ultra-high-performance steel fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPSFRC), a highly promising alternative to traditional steel-reinforced concrete for use in railway tunnel construction. Notably, Dr Tang has expanded the scope of his computer simulation approach, employing agent-based modelling (ABM) to assess the risk of hospital-acquired infections within complex hospital environments. For more detailed insights into his work on modelling healthcare resilience, please visit: Resilient infrastructures | Brunel University London.

Related Research Group(s)

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials - RIMS research group brings together material scientists and structural engineers to deliver resilient infrastructure (buildings, bridges etc.) made of sustainable, advanced materials to perform under harsh natural environment and human-induced hazards.