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High Temperature Molten Salts Chemistry and Electrochemistry

Faculty Member: Haiyan Zhao

High temperature molten salts systems find extensive application in energy storage and conversion, materials processing, and reprocessing. The molten salt reactors (MSRs) had been developed at Oakridge National Laboratory in the 1950s through 1970s as one of the advanced high temperature nuclear reactor systems to offer a potentially safer, more efficient and sustainable form of nuclear power, but its application is currently limited by the availability of compatible structural materials to endure the highly corrosive and hazardous high temperature molten salts for extended time. Until recently molten salts have attracted extensive research effort with their potential energy applications in both MSRs and the concentrated solar power (CSP). Based on recent research and comprehensive review, the eutectic alkaline metal fluoride salt mixture LiF-NaF-KF are identified as promising candidates for molten salt reactors. The corrosion rate and mechanism are the key to understand, select and design new metal alloys for MSRs. More research is needed in finding a material which can be corrosion resistant, irradiation resistant, and possesses desirable mechanical properties at the high operating temperatures of the molten salt reactor. Developing Ni-ODS (oxide dispersion strengthened) alloys can alleviate the problems related to swelling and irradiation damage since the concept of ODS has proven successful for steels based on the high density of defect sinks.

Student Research Experience: CAES provides a collaborative research environment with a strong safety culture. This will nurture the undergraduate students for strong leadership in research. The undergraduate students will be trained following safety procedures and learn how t use glovebox and handle hot molten salt safely. They will learn how to prepare samples characterize corrosions. Meanwhile, they will learn how to record experimental work and report results professionally and effectively. This project will provide a window for the REU students to peek into molten alt reactors and energy storage systems. The working control document (WCD) for this project has been reviewed and proved. However, the REU students are expected to review and learn the WCD seriously, which is part of the safety culture.