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September 3, 2019

UW-Madison engineers awarded nuclear energy research funding

Written By: Adam Malecek

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded more than $28.5 million through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to support university-led nuclear energy research and development projects, including a total of about $1.6 million in grants for UW-Madison engineers.

NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.

Engineering Physics Assistant Professor Adrien Couet is leading a $800,000 project to predict component service lifetimes and design limits. He is studying, in-situ, the individual and synergistic effects of corrosion, irradiation and mechanical stress on material removal by corrosion and erosion in 316 stainless steel tubes exposed to a molten chloride flow. He will conduct the work collaboratively with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Terrapower LLC, all with a leadership role in research and commercialization of molten salt reactors.

Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Mark Anderson, an affiliate of engineering physics, is leading a $800,000 project to explore three different areas that will help to improve commercialization of sodium-cooled fast reactors and to aid in testing for the DOE’s versatile test reactor. These areas include obtaining detailed heat transfer measurements in sodium to develop more precise heat transfer relations with highly resolved temperature sensors; testing and analyzing compact heat exchangers for use with sodium; and developing, testing and calibrating in-pool submersible flow meters with modern materials and technologies.

In addition, Engineering Physics Professor Douglass Henderson received a $211,294 infrastructure award to develop new high-throughput capabilities for the entire nuclear materials community. The UW-Madison nuclear engineering program has unique strength in experimental programs to develop nuclear technology, and Henderson will develop an automated high-speed surface imaging and chemical analysis capability for additively manufacturing high entropy alloys. He and collaborators will also develop high-throughput irradiation capabilities at the University of Wisconsin Ion Beam Laboratory to investigate radiation damage resistance of high entropy alloys.

These new capabilities will complement UW-Madison’s high-throughput, high-entropy alloys manufacturing capabilities with high-speed/high-volume material characterization and ion irradiation tools, which will accelerate the development and implementation of high-entropy alloys in nuclear applications. Collaborators on this project include Couet, Engineering Physics Distinguished Research Professor Kumar Sridharan, Engineering Physics Assistant Scientist Mohamed Elbakhshwan, and Dan Thoma, materials science and engineering professor and director of the Grainger Institute for Engineering at UW-Madison.