Nuclear power accounts for 20% of UK energy production, making it a critical energy source for the development of society and economy. In addition, it is the largest energy supplier of non-greenhouse gas-emitting resource, making it key to the UK’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In the aim to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, novel routes in fabrication of uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel currently used in nuclear power plants, as well as new, accident tolerant materials (such as U3Si2), are being explored.
Field assisted sintering (FAS) - where an electrical field is applied to a material while heating to increase densification rates, may be orders of magnitude faster than conventional techniques. However, there is still much that is unknown about sintering and mobility mechanisms and the effects those have on resultant fuel pellet.
The shorter sintering times can lead to restrained grain growth, which affects thermal and mechanical properties as well as effects from the electric field, such a lattice defects and crystallographic strain. This project will look to examine the underlying mechanisms of FAS and understand the effects it has on materials properties. Once well-defined the technique will be upscaled to show potential application for industry.
The student will be based in the National Fuel Centre for Excellence (NFCE), which houses equipment for the production of uranium fuel materials within a suite of atmosphere‐controlled glove‐boxes. The centre provides extensive facilities for materials processing, testing and characterisation, including sintering furnaces, electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and tomography and thermophysical characterisation.
CDT name: GREENCDT
The programme is funded by EPSRC, industrial partners and participating institutions.