Nanoceramic material for more safe and economical nuclear reactors

December 9, 2016 by Lexy Brodt, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison

An international team of researchers has created a nanoceramic material that not only can withstand the harsh effects of radiation, but also becomes tougher under radiation.

Next-generation nuclear systems will operate at higher temperatures and fields than ever before, producing energy more efficiently and economically.

Traditionally, water has been used as the primary coolant in reactors, absorbing the heat released from fission reactions. Though water poses fewer risks of corrosion damage to materials, there are also limits to the temperatures up to which water-cooled reactors can operate – and in advanced reactors, increasing their temperature is the best way to increase energy production.

New coolants, such as liquid metals like sodium and lead, are effective at much higher temperatures, but also are much more corrosive to the materials from which a nuclear reactor is made.

"There is a preferred use of metallic materials for structural components, but many of these materials cannot withstand high-temperature corrosion in advanced reactors," says Kumar Sridharan, a distinguished research professor in engineering physics and materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Corrosion is a surface phenomenon, so if you put coating on the surface, you need that coating to withstand high radiation doses without becoming embrittled."

Sridharan and collaborators at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Milan, Italy, characterized an nanoceramic coating – a new material that can withstand the harmful effects of these high-temperature liquid metals in advanced reactors. This material could be a huge boon to these systems. The researchers described it in a paper, "Radiation endurance in Al2O3 nanoceramics," published Sept. 22, 2016, in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Engineering physics graduate student Alexander Mairov contributed to the research. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Many materials tend to harden and crack when exposed to radiation. However, aluminium oxide nanoceramic coatings toughen, ultimately benefitting from irradiation, says Fabio Di Fonzo, a team leader at the IIT Center for Nano Science and Technology.

"The pinpoint of our work is the demonstration that an amorphous or nanoceramic material can improve during irradiation, and this opens the path toward a different view of nuclear , specifically where coatings are concerned," he says.

Sridharan and Di Fonzo combined their expertise through graduate students Alexander Mairov and Francisco García Ferré, who both initially worked with Di Fonzo while pursuing their master's degrees at CNST-IIT. After Mairov moved to UW-Madison to obtain his PhD, he and García Ferré connected the two researchers through their similar interests.

Di Fonzo's lab has been producing aluminium oxide nanoceramics for a few years. Collaborating with Sridharan's group, which used transmission electron microscopes to conduct microscopy analysis of the coating, the researchers developed a more thorough understanding of its properties. "Di Fonzo's lab developed the coating and exposed it to radiation, and we conducted analysis and helped them interpret the result," says Mairov. "We correlated changes they observed in the mechanical properties with changes in the nanoscale structure."

The researchers anticipate that this unique material will be able to make next-generation reactors more safe and economical overall.

"It's a paradigm shift in the field, because so far there has not been a material that actually exploits radiation," says García Ferré. "With this new material, we benefit from a radiation environment to tailor the evolution of the mechanical properties of the material. In particular, we are able to have a material that, by the end of its lifetime, has similar as when it was first exposed to radiation."

Explore further: Nanocrystals don't add up for reactor materials

More information: F. García Ferré et al. Radiation endurance in Al2O3 nanoceramics, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep33478

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23 comments

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Jeffhans1
2 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2016
I've been wondering why we aren't using a magnetohydrodynamic systems to cool reactors and capture energy with minimal mass needed.
gkam
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 09, 2016
I've been wondering when we are going to give up on this nasty technology.

No more research funding until they "clean up" Fukushima.
691Boat
5 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2016
I've been wondering why we aren't using a magnetohydrodynamic systems to cool reactors and capture energy with minimal mass needed.

Please expand on this. I am not sure I follow what a "magnetohydrodynamic system" will actually do.......
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) Dec 09, 2016
I am not sure I follow what a "magnetohydrodynamic system" will actually do.......

But, but, but...throwing in random scientese words makes people look smart, I swear!
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2016
I can't imagine a good reason to make nuclear reactors less safe than they can be.

"No more research" does exactly that. It's probably the most risky course.

Just sayin'.
Edenlegaia
5 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2016
I've been wondering when we are going to give up on this nasty technology.

No more research funding until they "clean up" Fukushima.


From what i can recall of your past claims, Fukushima will requires lifetimes to be cleaned up....if it can be.
And of course, folllowing your oh so wise advices, we would certainly not try to find a way to clean it faster, find more viable, efficient and cheaper protections.
That technology may be nasty and we can wonder if it's not strange to build more nuclear plants when renewables are kinda catching up, but giving up on simply finding a way to correct the wrongs would be even nastier.
Or is it by saying "cleaning up", you actually just meant "throw bad names at nuclear related articles and let contaminated regions alone for centuries and even more"? Why not? After all, who needs researches and science to better things....
entrance
not rated yet Dec 10, 2016
Really great. Is this work worth being nominated for the next "breakthrough prize"?
gkam
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 10, 2016
Okay, eden, YOU tell ME how to do it.

You have had 60 years, and it is still not "too cheap to meter". Do you have any idea how much Chernobyl and Fukushima cost the Decent Folk who wanted nothing to do with that nasty technology?

Go over there and take over. Take Willie with you.

Apparently you have no real idea of how much $190,000,000,000 actually is.
Eikka
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 10, 2016
I've been wondering why we aren't using a magnetohydrodynamic systems to cool reactors and capture energy with minimal mass needed.

Please expand on this. I am not sure I follow what a "magnetohydrodynamic system" will actually do.......


Molten metals can be pumped around by alternating magnetic fields similiar to how an induction motor turns. MHD pumps are a thing, and there are examples of computer CPU coolers which employ the effect to pump a sodium-potassium alloy inside the tubes using no mechanical parts that would break and need maintenance.

The NaK alloy is also used as a hydraulic fluid in high radiation and high temperature environments, as it won't break down from radiation and stays a liquid up to 760 C. It also has very high surface tension so it won't leak through tiny gaps in the seals. Using a MHD pump to provide the pressure, you can make essentially zero-maintenance actuators which can operate inside a nuclear reactor.

Eikka
4.4 / 5 (7) Dec 10, 2016
Apparently you have no real idea of how much $190,000,000,000 actually is.


Be careful not to rip your sphincter when you pull out those big numbers.

You have had 60 years, and it is still not "too cheap to meter".


Why would it need to be? That's just a nirvana fallacy.
Zzzzzzzz
Dec 10, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 10, 2016
"Be careful not to rip your sphincter when you pull out those big numbers."
Those are the numbers we get from the Japanese officials now. In the last week, they seem to have gone from $150,000,000,000 to $175,000,000,000 to $190,000,000,000. I fear next week.

"Too cheap to meter" was one of the selling points for nuclear power. But it turned out to be hype, like buying into a Trump Casino.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2016
but giving up on simply finding a way to correct the wrongs would be even nastier.

And then there are other uses of this material bseides nuclear reactors. E.g. shielding for long range manned space missions would surely benefit from such materials.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2016
but giving up on simply finding a way to correct the wrongs would be even nastier.

And then there are other uses of this material bseides nuclear reactors. E.g. shielding for long range manned space missions would surely benefit from such materials.


It's not a radiation shield - it's a radiation tolerant corrosion shield.
rrrander
not rated yet Dec 11, 2016
I'd only wonder if they could get an even coating on the pipe system and if not, would hot spots or weak spots develop? Aftermarket auto companies do this with engine headers.
Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2016
Those are the numbers we get from the Japanese officials now.


Citation needed.

You do know that the figure includes cleaning up for the tsunami, earthquake and compensating its victims as well, right?

http://phys.org/n...nup.html
http://www.upi.co...sn=tn_us

They're talking about handing $71.3 billion for the 18,000 victims of the tsunami and the earthquake which is also included in the cleanup cost. The decommission and decontamination estimates are guesswork based on the cost to clean up Three Mile Island, multiplied by a bullshit factor for labor and technology cost.

But you knew that already - you commented the article. You just like to spin it really really hard.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2016
Apparently you have no real idea of how much $190,000,000,000 actually is.
An intermittent/unreliable 2GW power plant = $15,000,000,000 more a multi-gigawatt fossil fuel power plant that runs 24 hours to keep lights on when sun is not shinning or wind is not blowing or during prolonged droughts.
It's so cheap, so clean, so eco-friendly, so carbon-free, all subsidized with taxpayers' hard-earned money, wonderful idea.

"Gas-power plants will probably be needed for backup when wind and solar plants aren't available"
http://www.bloomb...-billion
https://pbs.twimg...pg:large
Edenlegaia
not rated yet Dec 11, 2016
Okay, eden, YOU tell ME how to do it.

You have had 60 years, and it is still not "too cheap to meter". Do you have any idea how much Chernobyl and Fukushima cost the Decent Folk who wanted nothing to do with that nasty technology?

Go over there and take over. Take Willie with you.

Apparently you have no real idea of how much $190,000,000,000 actually is.


How would i be able to tell you what noone knows? And what is it about again? How to clean those disasters? It's in progress, just so you didn't realize, and thus needs more......TADAAA! Research!
Your morality saves no money, no people, no lands. Barely even your ego. When people try to find a way to correct the wrongs, poking them in the eyes whispering "Told yaaaaaaa" won't do any good. Those researches needs funds and TIME (they'll have plenty, right?) to find solution to what you want to avert your eyes from.
You want their funding to stop?
Go and tell them.
gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 11, 2016
"Citation needed."

Okay, it's a tough one to find:
http://phys.org/n...nup.html

Research? You have had 60 years. I even helped do research on the GE Mark I & II BWR SRV. It showed us they are dangerous.

We did that in 1979. How come they did not act? Why are they still using this dangerous technology? Indian Point has two of these troubled and dangerous monsters, directly upwind from New York.

Somebody ought to tell Trump if they go, all his empire is gone, too.
gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 11, 2016
"The decommission and decontamination estimates are guesswork based on the cost to clean up Three Mile Island,"
-------------------------------------

Studying a fender-bender to make a car-truck collision safer? TMI II only melted down inside the reactor vessel. It only ate through one of the two walls of the vessel. Fukushima was all the warnings of anti-nukes made real. The lies are no good any more, we have the facts.

We could approach TMI II. I dare you to try to look into the holes left by the Fukushima meltdowns. And if you stand by one of those huge exhaust stacks, you will gt a lethal dose in minutes.

Why do they need 600-foot stacks for a "clean" operation?
gkam
1 / 5 (8) Dec 11, 2016
"You want their funding to stop?
Go and tell them."
-----------------------------

I do.

And I use my real name. How about you?
WillieWard
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 11, 2016
And I use my real name. How about you?
Sociopaths are not ashamed to act like a fool, no shame in using real name. They lie and believe in their own lies to keep their ego up.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 11, 2016
Wouldn't it be more intelligent to use their talent and money to clean up their present disasters before planning to make more?

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