Nuclear power is a major component of our nation's long-term clean-energy future, but the technology has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of Japan's recent Fukushima disaster. Indeed, many nations have called for checks and "stress tests" to ensure nuclear plants are operating safely.
In the United States, about 20 percent of our electricity and almost 70 percent of the electricity from emission-free sources, including renewable technologies and hydroelectric power plants, is supplied by nuclear power. Along with power generation, many of the world's nuclear facilities are used for research, materials testing, or the production of radioisotopes for the medical industry. The service life of structural and functional material components in these facilities is therefore crucial for ensuring reliable operation and safety.
Now scientists at Berkeley Lab, the University of California at Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised a nanoscale testing technique for irradiated materials that provides macroscale materials-strength properties. This technique could help accelerate the development of new materials for nuclear applications and reduce the amount of material required for testing of facilities already in service.
"Nanoscale mechanical tests always give you higher strengths than the macroscale, bulk values for a material. This is a problem if you actually want use a nanoscale test to tell you something about the bulk-material properties," said Andrew Minor, a faculty scientist in the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) and an associate professor in the materials science and engineering department at UC Berkeley. "We have shown you can actually get real properties from irradiated specimens as small as 400 nanometers in diameter, which really opens up the field of nuclear materials to take advantage of nanoscale testing."
In this study, Minor and his colleagues conducted compression tests o
|Contact: Aditi Risbud|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory