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ISU/INL’s Haiming Wen receives $500,000 grant to improve materials for nuclear reactors

August 25, 2016

POCATELLO – Idaho State University researcher Haiming Wen, working with three collaborators at the Idaho National Laboratory, has received a $500,000 grant to improve the strength and irradiation resistance of metals used in nuclear reactors.

Portrait of Haiming Wen.Wen, an assistant research professor at ISU and a staff scientist at the INL, and his INL collaborators will be working to improve the irradiation performance of metals used in nuclear facilities. The irradiation performance of materials is critical to nuclear reactors.

“Basically, we are trying to help develop advanced nuclear reactors and to extend the life of currently used nuclear reactors,” Wen said.  “We are trying to develop materials with improved performance and irradiation resistance and to assess the use of these materials in nuclear reactors.”

Wen will be working with an ISU graduate student and INL scientists James Cole, Isabella Van Rooeyn and Yongfeng Zhang on this project. They will be developing “nanostructures,” tiny structures between the size of microscopic and molecular structures, that could improve the performance of conventionally used materials used in building reactors.

“We will be producing this nanomaterial using advanced manufacturing techniques,” Wen said. “This work focuses on assessing the performance of these materials in a real nuclear irradiation environment. This has never been done before.”

 Wen and the graduate student will be performing most of the experiments, receiving help from the INL scientists with computer simulations. Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Science User Facilities will be helping with neutron irradiation testing.

“In the whole world there are only a few places you can perform neutron irradiation testing of materials, and the most important one is the Advanced Test Reactor at the INL,” Wen said. “It is very exciting to get this opportunity for neutron irradiation.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy provided the grant titled “Enhancing irradiation tolerance of steels via nanostructuring by innovative manufacturing techniques.” Wen and his colleagues received the grant this summer and will begin to work on it in October.

This project is comprised of two parts, $500,000 for research and development and around $2.4 million for facility access for neutron irradiation and the post-irradiation examination of the materials. The $2.4 million goes to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Science User Facilities.