Advanced Materials

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Nuclear Materials


In contrast with many technical specialties within the Physical Sciences directorate, the Nuclear Materials focus combines a broad multidisciplinary, applied, materials science approach to materials development with the very specific study of irradiation materials science. Our major challenge is the design and qualification materials capable of withstanding nuclear environments where individual atoms can be displaced from their lattice positions hundred times over their lifetime with percent levels of atoms transmuted into volatile species such as hydrogen and helium. Moreover, as these materials are typically developed for advanced energy applications, very high temperature performance is expected.

Tools used for this discipline range from the computational materials science tools involved in alloy design, to designing irradiation capsules for testing in the core of the High Flux Isotope Reactor, to the basics of radiation damage and fracture mechanics of radioactive material. As irradiation phenomenon typically occur over very small length scales, irradiation studies often involve miniaturized samples for microstructural or micromechanical investigation. Much of this radiological work is carried out in the classic hot-cell environment, though with the increased understanding of how to bridge microstructural evolution to mechanical properties, especially using very small samples. An increasing amount and quality of work is being carried out in specialized equipment in low-dose radiological facilities and open-use equipment.

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