Research Groups

Contributions by NPRE Research Groups

Important contributions have been made recently by several research groups working in the following areas:

 

  • inertial electrostatic confinement for fusion applications and for neutron, X-ray, and gamma radiation sources;
  • energy cell performance for heat release and material transmutations;
  • advanced computational techniques applied to stochastic radiation transport, reactor physics, and safety, including Lie groups and group invariant difference schemes; perceptual displays and temporal pattern recognition applied to reactor control and operation; nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards;
  • fusion blanket and diverter materials behavior and performance;
  • plasma processing of electronic materials, plasma-induced sputtering, and plasma measurements; nuclear radiation effects on materials and neutron scattering measurements;
  • materials behavior under high-temperature corrosion and radiation bombardment environments, including nondestructive examination;
  • magnetic resonance imaging for cancer cell treatment; and thermal hydraulics, including multiphase flows, boiling in porous media, molten jet breakup, and turbulent structure modeling;
  • and large-scale computer modeling of fission reactor systems, including reactor and control systems visualization.

Active research groups include:

Advanced Blankets & Coolants Laboratory (ABC Lab)

Dr. L. Vergari, director 

The mission of the ABC Lab is to investigate candidate materials that will be used as coolants in advanced fission reactors and breeding blankets in fusion reactors. To support our mission, we design and conduct experiments to study the chemistry of non-aqueous high temperature liquids in a reactor environment. Two classes of liquids of particular relevance to our group are molten salts and liquid metals, which are used in many designs of fission and fusion reactors. For these materials, we are interested in measuring thermo-physical properties, describing mechanisms of interactions with structural materials and gasses, and understanding behavior under irradiation. In our projects, we use a wide array of chemistry and material science tools, including electrochemistry, gas adsorption techniques, mechanical testing, and material characterization facilities. Data science techniques are used to analyze our experimental results and support mechanistic understanding of the phenomena we study.

Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles (ARFC)

Dr. Katy Huff, director (Currently being run by Dr. Madicken Munk)

The ARFC group seeks to advance the safety and sustainability of nuclear energy production through improved reactor designs, fuel cycle strategies, and waste management techniques. In the area of advanced reactors, our work focuses on extending current simulation tools with features essential to advanced reactor multiphysics. In the context of the broader nuclear fuel cycle, the ARFC group emphasizes modeling, simulation, and analysis of the global nuclear fuel cycle, with an emphasis on sustainability. A crosscutting theme of our research is an emphasis on advancing methods and software for computational nuclear engineering. Accordingly, the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles group is proud to be affiliated with the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications and its Blue Waters computing facility.

Analysis of Reactor Transients and Stability (ARTS)

Dr. Tomasz Kozlowski, director

The ARTS group performs deterministic safety analysis by developing and validating advanced methods to accurately determine reactor safety margins and reactor behavior. By performing high-fidelity numerical predictions of the reactor behavior in abnormal transient scenarios of safety significance, our work supports the nuclear reactor safety analysis, and increases the fidelity of primary system simulation. This approach is at the heart of nuclear power’s excellent safety record – always striving to improve current tools and methods.

Center for Plasma Material Interactions (CPMI)

Dr. David Ruzic, director

The primary objective of CPMI is the study of plasma-material interactions relevant to fusion, semiconductor manufacturing, and plasma processing through a combination of experimental and computational means. CPMI has facilities for the study of fusion materials, High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS), liquid metals, Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUVL), laser-material interactions, and more. Projects are supported by both government and commercial partners to further the application and knowledge of plasma physics.

Fusion Studies Lab

Dr. George Miley, director

In additional to general fusion research, the research group is working on inertial electrostatic confinement fusion in conjunction with Daimler-Benz Aerospace, dense plasma focus, plus much of the pioneering work on direct energy conversion for nuclear pumped lasers.

H Lab

Dr. Brent Heuser, director

We strive to understand the response of metals, alloys, and ceramic compounds found in nuclear reactors to environmental factors such as stress, fast neutron damage, temperature, and corrosion by the use of advanced microanalytical analysis techniques. The goal of this work is to support light water nuclear reactor sustainability, to improve safety of light water nuclear reactors, and to support the development of advanced reactor concepts. 

The LENRs Group

Dr. George Miley, director

Part of the research in the Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) Lab consists of experiments that use either an electrolysis process, a high pressure, or an arc process to force hydrogen atoms into the lattice structure of a thin film (500-1000 A) of metal. A major goal of this research is to examine the metal before and after the experiment, to establish the signatures of LENRs by studying transmutation products. Another goal is to measure the energy output of the unit. If an ample amount is released, such cells offer an attractive small power source for future distributed energy systems.

MARTIANS (Machine Learning and ARTIficial Intelligence for Advancing Nuclear Systems) Laboratory

Dr. Syed Bahauddin Alam, director

The overarching research theme of Dr. Alam’s lab is Hybrid Data+Physics-Driven & Explainable Machine Learning Techniques and Multiscale Modeling with Surrogate-Modeling-Based Uncertainty Quantification and Robust Optimization for Multi-Criteria Decision making for Nuclear Engineering Problems.” Accordingly, Dr. Alam’s research interests and expertise broadly lie in the intersection of nuclear engineering, explainable machine learning, mechanics & materials — focusing on data-driven analysis that warrants frequent excursions among the boundaries of applied mathematics and data science.

The Materials Group

Dr. James F. Stubbins, director

The group investigates a wide variety of topics within the realm of materials research including mechanical properties, microstructural evaluations, plus radiation damage investigations, and modeling. Materials such as copper alloys nickel-based alloys, stainless steels, ferritic steels, and silicon-carbide composites are studied using a variety of analytical techniques electron microscopy and spectroscopy.

Molecules and Materials Laboratory

Dr. Yang Zhang, director

We synergistically combine and push the boundaries of theoretical and computational molecular science and neutron and X-ray scattering experiments. We develop accelerated molecular simulation methods, based on quantum and statistical mechanics and verified by experiments, which can effectively model a wide range of long timescale phenomena and rare events. The goal is to significantly extend our understanding of the equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of natural and synthetic materials from the molecular and electronic level and provide accurate predictions and rational guidance to the design, synthesis, fabrication, and utilization of novel materials. Particular emphasis is given to the physics and chemistry of liquids, especially at interfaces, driven away from equilibrium, or under extreme conditions.

Multiphase Thermo-fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Dr. Caleb Brooks, director

This group performs experiments related to thermal hydraulics and multiphase flow. Phenomena studied include boiling, condensation, critical heat flux, natural circulation, two-phase flow instabilities, bubble dynamics, and two-phase transport. Utilizing advanced instrumentation, data from these experiments are used in model development and validation of computational tools.

Non-Equilibrium Matter Laboratory

Dr. Yang Zhang, director

This laboratory focuses on the study of non-equilibrium matter, with particular emphasis on liquids and soft matter, using integrated neutron and synchrotron light experimental probes and atomistic modeling and simulation. The structure and dynamics of these systems are either inherently complex or driven away from equilibrium by extreme conditions. In particular, our current interests include a range of fundamental and technical problems involving slow phenomena and rare events, such as: materials far from equilibrium and in extreme environments; extreme properties of liquids; and glassy or jammed soft matters.

North American Technical Center

Dr. David W. Miller, regional director

Radiation Detection and Imaging Group (RDI Group)

Dr. Ling Jian Meng, director

Research is on developing radiation sensor and systems for visualizing the distribution of radioactivity in surrounding objects, patients, and small lab animals etc. Current emphasis includes (a) developing novel radiation sensors for detecting X-ray, gamma rays and neutrons, and (b) developing nuclear techniques for detecting and imaging a tiny amount radiolabeled molecules inside small lab animals.

Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Laboratory

Dr. Zahra Mohaghegh, director

The Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Laboratory is evolving Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) by explicitly incorporating the underlying science of accident causation into risk scenarios. SoTeRiA laboratory has pioneered two key areas of theoretical and methodological innovations: (1) spatio-temporal causal modeling of social and physical failure mechanisms in PRA, and (2) the fusion of big data analytics with PRA. The Lab’s current projects include: Fire PRA; Location-specific Loss- Of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) Frequency Estimations; Risk-Informed Resolution of Generic Safety Issue 191; Human and Organizational Influences on System Risk; Risk-Informed Regulation; and Risk-Informed Emergency Preparedness, Planning and Response.

Soft Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Dr. Yang Zhang, director

The Soft Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory advances the development of soft robotics and human-compatible machines, intelligent and continuous control algorithms, and understandable artificial intelligence, leveraging their expertise in novel soft materials and sensors. These soft robotic devices have demonstrated promising capabilities that could enable a wide range of unique applications not possible with traditional robots.

Virtual Education and Research Laboratory

Dr. Rizwan Uddin, director

The group focuses on the development of innovative numerical methods and their implementation on high performance computing machines. Research efforts center on problems in nuclear engineering, with emphasis on thermal-hydraulics and reactor physics.