PhD students Fabio Martini, Christopher Moore and Sarah Vallely recently returned to the office, after spending 10 weeks conducting research at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the USA. The three travelled to New Mexico to work on both experimental and computational projects, alongside experts in their field of work. This exciting opportunity was made possible through the Ser Cymru II strategic partnership accelerator award, “Strengthening Links with US national Labs in Nuclear Energy”.
Fabio’s experimental project was based on ultra-high-temperature ceramics (UHTCs) containing uranium carbide, to be used as a fuel for advanced reactors and for thermal space propulsion systems. These materials were to be designed and fabricated during Fabio’s visit to LANL so that characterisation and development of the ceramics may take place in the future.
Chris was set to be working on the hydrogenation of the TiZrNbHfTa high entropy alloy (HEA) for use in ion irradiation and in-situ neutron diffraction experiments. Chris is continuing to work with LANL, and other institutes, on this project. He was also able to gain further laboratory experience, aiding in the fabrication of HfHx and ZrHx pellets, as well as modelling experience by developing a script that he hopes will effectively model a thermal spike in the TiZrNbHfTa high entropy alloy, to establish how the material may recombine after radiation damage events.
Sarah was based in a modelling team where she used classical molecular dynamics, through the LAMMPS software, to model the melting temperature of CrUO4, a phase expected to form during the sintering of Cr-doped UO2 fuel pellets. After learning how to use the moving interface method, a technique which separates a cell into a solid and liquid region to predict melting temperature, Sarah was able to effectively predict the melting temperature of CrUO4. With this knowledge, she then went on to predict the melting temperature of various hyper-stoichiometric UO2 structures using the same method.
The trip also gave the students an opportunity to explore America on the weekends, travelling to Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico of course. During these travels, the students took the chance to experience iconic destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Roswell to name a few on an exceptionally large list!