13th March 2023 – Materials Challenges in a Nuclear Reactor

Alex Carruthers is a post doctoral researcher in nuclear metallurgy at the University of Manchester. His specialism is analysis of irradiation-induced microsctructural changes in Zirconium alloys.

He will talk to us about the challenges of using such materials in a nuclear reactor.

In Alex’s own words: “High levels of radiation make nuclear reactors a uniquely challenging environment for the materials that they’re built from. But Why? The short answer is; radiation tends to make metals weak and brittle. But again, why? This talk will answer this question by considering the effects of radiation from the perspective of atoms.

I will start by explaining the atomic ‘structures’ that form inside materials, move on to how radiation rearranges them and why this is a problem. Finally, we will see why materials scientists can ‘cope’ with radiation in a fission reactor, but fusion causes them such a headache!

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