Materials Science Research Overview
Materials studies within the NPRE Department at Illinois is often inter-disciplinary and spans many aspects of materials science and condensed matter physics. Strong research efforts on nuclear materials including the study of the response of LWR components are well-supported by the DOE, NRC, and the NSF.
These include investigations of the mechanical properties of cladding and other structural components, and heat exchanger materials. Advanced microanalytical techniques are often employed to perform nano-scale interrogation of deformation, precipitation, and chemical segregation studies, for example. Ion beam bombardment of materials often runs concurrent with these techniques to simulate fast neutron displacement cascade damage. Fuel performance modeling, molecular dynamics, and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations complement these experimental activities. The Department also has strong efforts related to the study of nuclear fuel such as urania, including mass transport and mechanical property studies. Tangentially related work exists in the study of hydrogen in metals, including hydride phase formation and solute dislocation pipe diffusion.
Beyond nuclear materials, NPRE is also heavily involved in the study of other materials far from equilibrium and in extreme environments, such as the extreme properties of liquids, various glassy materials, and even some soft materials. This area of research is currently funded by the DOE and the PRF. This research involves the application of both advanced materials characterizations using neutron and synchrotron light at the national labs and atomisitic modeling and simulation.