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Novel Alloy Development for Nuclear Applications

Faculty Member: Brian Jaques

With population growth and a society become more and more dependent on energy-intensive technologies, infrastructure development and modernization to produce clean, secure, and safe energy sources must be realized. Accordingly, emphasis on retaining, improving, and advancing nuclear energy in the United States has gained significant interest and momentum in recent years. The U.S. currently has nearly 100 commercial nuclear reactors that produce more than 800 billion kWh of energy. In addition, nuclear power is the most reliable and efficient energy source in the U.S. and operates at full capacity 92% of the time. However, no new nuclear power plants have been constructed in over 30 years. This is partially due to the extended time periods necessary for the development and qualification of new materials to withstand the demanding and extreme environments in advanced reactor designs; including more corrosive, higher temperature, and higher irradiation environments.

Student Research Experience: In response to this need, students will be introduced to the basics of nuclear energy and the design of nuclear reactors, and they will participate in the fabrication and characterization of novel alloys for use in advanced nuclear reactor applications. They will gain experience in powder handling, alloy development, ball milling, and high temperature furnace operations, and advanced manufacturing (such as spark plasma sintering and powder bed additive manufacturing). They will learn to characterize their samples using traditional physical characterization and metallographic methods combined with advanced analytical techniques such as high-resolution electron microscopy, electron backscatter diffraction, and X-ray diffraction.