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Berkeley scientists pioneer nanoscale nuclear materials testing capability
Date:6/26/2011

f copper specimens irradiated with high-energy protons, designed to model how damage from radiation affects the mechanical properties of copper. By using a specialized in situ mechanical testing device in a transmission electron microscope at NCEM, the team could examine with nanoscale resolution the nature of the deformation and how it was localized to just a few atomic planes.

Three-dimensional defects within the copper created by radiation can block the motion of one-dimensional defects in the crystal structure, called dislocations. This interaction causes irradiated materials to become brittle, and alters the amount of force a material can withstand before it eventually breaks. By translating nanoscale strength values into bulk properties, this technique could help reactor designers find suitable materials for engineering components in nuclear plants.

"This small-scale testing technique could help extend the lifetime of a nuclear reactor," said co-author Peter Hosemann, an assistant professor in the nuclear engineering department at UC Berkeley. "By using a smaller specimen, we limit any safety issues related to the handling of the test material and could potentially measure the exact properties of a material already being used in a 40-year-old nuclear facility to make sure this structure lasts well into the future."

Minor adds, "Understanding how materials fail is a fundamental mechanistic question. This proof of principle study gives us a model system from which we can now start to explore real, practical materials applicable to nuclear energy. By understanding the role of defects on the mechanical properties of nuclear reactor materials, we can design materials that are more resistant to radiation damage, leading to more advanced and safer nuclear technologies."


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Contact: Aditi Risbud
asrisbud@lbl.gov
510-486-4861
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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