Queen's engineers receive $6.9M to build nuclear materials testing facility

June 24, 2009

Rick Holt and Mark Daymond, professors of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen's University, recently received $6.9 million to support their work testing nuclear materials in a simulated reactor environment.

The funds were awarded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) New Initiatives Fund, which supports new areas of research and technology development. The total value of the project, once provincial funds are awarded, will be $17.5 million.

"Materials exhibit fundamentally more complicated behaviour inside a nuclear reactor than when outside," says Professor Holt. "This is due to the presence of the high neutron flux which alters the way that deformation, corrosion and failure occur. This leads to a major problem for scientists working in reactor design."

While the degradation mechanisms in materials can be studied outside the reactor, the impact of radiation on these mechanisms must also be investigated. At present, this is done by carrying out a small number of targeted experiments in a nuclear test reactor, an expensive and time-consuming process. In most cases the underlying science is inferred indirectly from the data and key assumptions cannot be rigorously tested, notes Professor Holt.

"The Nuclear Materials Testing Facility is an exciting initiative to investigate these issues using an alternative approach, based on the use of accelerator technology to simulate reactor conditions rather than an actual reactor," he says. "The facility will provide a unique capability in Canada to support the development of materials for advanced reactor systems, and to improve our understanding of materials in use in existing reactors.

"We will be able to measure the dynamic effects of the reactor environment on dimensional stability, fracture and corrosion-induced degradation, as well as advancing understanding of the effects of a reactor environment by performing carefully controlled experiments," Professor Holt adds.

In total, seven Queen's University research projects received $42.7 million from CFI.

Queen's University
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