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Research Highlights

Better Nuclear Reactor Materials

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A UNL engineer is developing a composite material that could lead to safer and more efficient energy production in current and advanced nuclear reactors. Michael Nastasi, Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research director and Elmer Koch Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, is teaming with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M on this project, funded by a $980,000 Department of Energy grant. Nuclear fission releases highly energetic particles from metal alloy-clad fuel rods. But the particles can damage the fuel rods at atomic levels, which can lead to a loss of mechanical integrity and even catastrophic failure. Nastasi aims to develop a ceramic-based nanostructured composite with an unorganized, or amorphous, molecular structure that allows it to recover its original configuration after particle bombardment. The material also will contain iron, providing a radiation sink at the material’s interface and another layer of protection.

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