From building robots that can traverse high radiation environments to pinpointing the ideal materials for constructing and upgrading nuclear training facilities – the University of Florida’s nuclear engineering program, housed in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, will address major challenges through two new federal research awards.
The Nuclear Energy University Program, or NEUP, is the program by which the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, funds research and equipment upgrades at academic institutions around the country. NEUP just approved two projects that involve four faculty members at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, and will result in $1.5 million in research awards to the university.
UF nuclear engineering professors Jim Baciak and Jim Tulenko are working with mechanical engineering professor Carl Crane and faculty at University of Texas on a project that will create a new robotic system that can traverse challenging terrain in radioactive environments and assess debris and measure contamination levels. Ultimately, it will solve a critical need in the environmental management of contaminated areas.
“This team at UF has extensive experience with the fundamental evaluation of radiation effects on electronic equipment down to the chip level,” Tulenko said. “This work taps into a historical knowledge base at the university, cultivated in previous work with the DOE.”
The second project is led by UF materials science and engineering professor Yong Yang and includes experts at Argonne National Laboratory. The team will research the wear and tear on duplex stainless steels used in reactor components. Understanding their microstructural changes that occur over time will help better predict materials that can extend reactor lifetimes, and improve regulation standards.
In addition to these research awards, two students in UF’s Nuclear Engineering Program were recently recognized by the NEUP. Graduate student Zander Mausolff was awarded a $150,000 fellowship over the next three years, and undergraduate Dustin Popp received two scholarships for tuition and related expenses totaling $7,500.
The nuclear engineering program at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering houses the only university-based training reactor in the southeast.