Sêr Cymru Reader Dr Simon Middleburgh contributes to British Science Week

British Science Week is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths that will take place between 5-14 March 2021. As part of British Science Week, the Welsh Government Office for Science has created a series of videos from prominent Sêr Cymru programme researchers throughout Wales. The prestigious Sêr Cymru programme is the multi-million-pound funding programme that brings scientific talent into research posts in Wales from across the globe since 2012.

Our very own Simon Middleburgh has contributed to this project by creating an educational video where he explains the group’s efforts in developing materials for next-generation nuclear applications, including fission, fusion, space and medicine.

The video also features PhD students and post-doctoral researchers in the group. Fabio discusses the key challenges of working with uranium and gives his advice on keeping safe in the lab.

Phylis describes how ultra-high temperature ceramics are used to withstand the extreme environments inside a nuclear reactor. Composite fuels are also discussed, these composite fuels combine several key properties including, higher uranium density, higher thermal conductivity, and operational flexibility with incorporating a burnable absorber or neutron absorber.

Megan then discusses her predictive modelling research to predict how materials might behave in different environments. Megan explains how she is particularly interested in analysing the diffusion of oxygen through the oxide layer that forms on zirconium alloys. To make these calculations possible, Megan uses three fundamental techniques: molecular dynamics, DFT (density functional theory) and reverse Monte Carlo calculations.

Finally, Iuliia talks about the next generation of alloys and new compositions which are going to be employed in the nuclear reactors of our future. The interactions of radiation and materials can be severe, Iuliia’s research aims to understand this. Iuliia explains how she is using proton or helium beams to mimic neutron radiation and uses electron microscopy techniques to view their effects on materials. Through the development of new materials that can operate in fusion reactors, we will also help the space industry take steps towards more reliable telecommunications, weather prediction and of course, space exploration.