New alloys could lead to next generation of nuclear plant metals

nordlund_kai
Kai Nordlund.

A new kind of metal could make nuclear power plants more robust by resisting the damage that radiation does to traditional steel.

When neutrons from nuclear cores smack into surrounding structures, they can knock atoms out of place, which makes steel brittle. This means plants periodically require expensive and time-consuming repairs.

So Kai Nordlund, professor in Computational Materials Physics at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and his colleagues tested hybrid metals called high-entropy alloys, which have randomly placed atoms. They ran simulations to see which combinations might be toughest, then made thin discs of the winning metals and fired a beam of ions at them to simulate what might happen in a real nuclear reactor.

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MIT researchers discover an explanation to heat loss

[source: MIT news]

One of the biggest obstacles to making fusion power practical — and realizing its promise of virtually limitless and relatively clean energy — has been that computer models have been unable to predict how the hot, electrically charged gas inside a fusion reactor behaves under the intense heat and pressure required to make atoms stick together.

Now, researchers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, in collaboration with others at the University of California at San Diego, General Atomics, and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, say that they have found the key.

Read moreMIT researchers discover an explanation to heat loss