Newsletter Issue Featured Article
Nuclear energy is one of the most reliable sources of electricity for human needs. Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been identified as an important component to the future of nuclear energy because of their advantages in scalability, siting flexibility, safety, and security. However, SMRs generate a higher amount of spent nuclear fuel and associated radioactive waste, when normalized to electricity generation, as compared to conventional nuclear power plants.
- EFRC: Thermal Energy Transport Under Irradiation (TETI): Predicting Thermal Energy Transport in Actinide Materials in Extreme Environments
Dr. Linu Malakkal
Heat transfer is essential to our daily life—from heating a pot of water to complex carbon-free energy technologies that aim to achieve zero carbon emissions. Examples of these technologies include concentrated solar power generation, thermoelectric generation, and nuclear power generation.
Ancient civilizations are defined by the predominant materials used to make tools, i.e., Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, indicating the importance of materials for life and civilization. Until the late twentieth century, humans mainly used natural materials. In the last century, materials science has rapidly emerged as one of the most important research fields, resulting in a diverse array of human-made materials.
Dr. Shunda Chen
The newly established Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors (µ-ATOMS) Energy Frontier Research Center aims to discover the fundamental principles determining the ordering of atoms in semiconductor alloys and how ordering affects material properties. Semiconductors are widely used in electronic devices such as transistors in smartphones and computers, solar cells, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) due to their unique electronic properties.
Scientists have determined that atmospheric CO2 levels are at an all-time high and are continuing to increase at an unprecedented rate. The consequences are rising global temperatures and sea levels and the subsequent impacts on social, ecological, and climate systems. So how can we minimize the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? One promising approach is to permanently store CO2 underground in minerals―a strategy that the newly funded Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), Geo-processes in Mineral Carbon Storage (GMCS), is currently investigating.
Xavier C. Krull
Hydrogen is among the most abundant elements on Earth, and its energy density by mass is significantly greater than other chemical fuels. Additionally, the only byproduct of a simple hydrogen fuel cell is pure water. Amidst concern over the environmental impacts of ongoing fossil fuel usage and associated carbon dioxide emissions, these benefits are of critical interest to the energy and transportation sectors, and thus, hydrogen fuel cells have been the focus of widespread research for decades.
Hydrogen is simple, and hydrogen is everywhere. It makes up ~90% of the atoms in the universe and 63% of the atoms in our bodies. Hydrogen atoms are simple in that they consist of a single proton with the option of no electrons (H+, also called a proton), one electron (H0, a neutral hydrogen atom), or two electrons (H-, hydride). Despite its simplicity and omnipresence, scientists have only begun to grasp how hydrogen interacts with other elements due to its tiny mass and elusive nature.
The dynamics of fluids confined within nanometer-sized structures (nanoconfined fluids) deviate significantly from the predicitons of classical fluid mechanics. Nanofluidics is a rapidly expanding field of research with the goal of understanding and controlling those dynamics. Nanofluidics has gained popularity because of the growing influence of nanotechnology.
Imagine you had a bottle of table salt, NaCl in its solid form, and heated it in a furnace until it became a liquid. This high-temperature ionic liquid is referred to as a molten salt. Molten salts are being widely explored as coolants and fuels for next generation nuclear reactors because molten salts can self-regulate the reactor and do not require high pressures to operate .
Did you know that many of the objects you use throughout the day were produced with the help of a catalyst? Catalysts are special materials that “speed up” chemical reactions. They are used in the production of familiar products like plastics, medicine, fertilizer, and fuels. In fact, scientists are working to develop new processes for making cost-competitive “clean” fuels, such as hydrogen (H2), which don’t emit harmful greenhouse gases like CO2. Improved catalysts will be at the heart of such processes.
- Focusing Down to an Atomic View of Molten Salts in Extreme Environments: Improving Clarity Through Collaboration
With the last eight years having the hottest recorded global temperatures in history, rising global energy consumption has flashed a warning sign that is driving world leaders to invest in developing solutions for sustainable energy generation. Despite some skepticism among members of the public, nuclear energy is a reliable source of clean electricity that advocates say will play a pivotal role in the planet’s transition away from using fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas for electricity generation.
Nancy M. Washton and Jeffrey G. Holmes, Co-editors-in-Chief
- Sallye Gathmann, Center for Programmable Energy Catalysis (CPEC)
- Shunda Chen, Manipulation of Atomic Ordering for Manufacturing Semiconductors (µ-ATOMS)
- Zachary Diermyer, Multi-scale Fluid-Solid Interactions in Architected and Natural Materials (MUSE)
- Linu Malakkal, Center for Thermal Energy Transport under Irradiation (TETI)
- Zirui Mao, Center for Hierarchical Waste Form Materials (CHWM)
- Haylea Nisbet, Geo-processes in Mineral Carbon Storage (GMCS)
- Andrea Hwang, Fundamental Understanding of Transport Under Reactor Extremes (FUTURE)
- Xavier Krull, Catalyst Design for Decarbonization Center (CD4DC)
- Matthew Emerson, Molten Salts in Extreme Environments (MSEE)
- Arthur Shih, Hydrogen in Energy and Information Sciences (HEISs)
- Yongtao Liu, 3D Ferroelectric Microelectronics (3DFeM)
Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.