Nuclear Materials Research

At the centre of all nuclear reactor technologies, the development of materials which are capable of surviving the extreme environments within a nuclear core is paramount. Whether the reactor technology is fission or fusion based, how a material will behave in use is key to the success of the reactor.

The group focuses mainly on the following areas of research:

  1. New materials - design and fabrication of new materials, tolerance of the extreme conditions within a reactor core, for example oxides, carbides, and innovative metallic alloys.
  2. Development of models for predicting the effects of radiation damage - the expected damage levels within the next generation of reactors is expected to be significantly higher than those observed today. How are the materials likely to behave under such conditions? This links in with materials development as they are closely intertwined.
  3. Enhancement of current materials used within reactor cores - how can we extend the life of existing nuclear materials, while at the same time ensuring that they behave as designed. For example coatings on fuel cladding to prevent rapid oxidation if a LOCA occurs.
  4. New technology development - is it possible to use new and innovative methods of manufacture within the nuclear fuel cycle?
  5. Non-equilbirium synthesis - can radioactive decay be used to prepare materials, which have unique properties but which cannot be made using classical techniques?
  6. New fuel cycle options - can we use develop a new fuel cycle which take advantage of the new techniques in materials synthesis to enhance the reuse, and minimisation of waste produced. Can we also develop new fuel options that reduce the waste?

Existing research programmes

Ceramic Coatings for Clad (C3)
A joint UK-US programme of research developing new coatings for fuel cladding that are resistant to oxidation. Partners include:

Atomistic Radiation Damage in Perovskites
A multi component programme examining the effects of radiation damage in a range of oxide perovskites, with applications in both fission and fusion reactors. Partners include:

Silicate Nanoparticles for Extraction of Radionuclides (SINNER)
A joint UK - S Korea programme developing separation technologies for radionuclides. Partners include:

Schematic of how the group works