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Pioneering a Nanoscale Nuclear Materials Testing Capability

Materials Science Division faculty scientist Andy Minor and colleagues have devised a nanoscale testing technique for irradiated materials that provides macroscale materials-strength properties. This technique could help accelerate the development of new materials for nuclear applications, and reduce the amount of material required for testing of facilities already in service.

Researchers at the National Center for Electron Microscopy have devised a mechanical testing technique for irradiated materials to provide macroscale strength properties from nanoscale samples. This technique could help accelerate the development of new materials for nuclear applications, while reducing the amount of material required for testing facilities already in service.
About 20 percent of electricity in the United States is supplied by nuclear power. The mechanical integrity of structural and functional material components in these facilities is therefore critical for ensuring safe and reliable operation. In this study, the team conducted nanocompression tests of copper specimens irradiated with high-energy protons, designed to model how radiation damage affects the mechanical properties of copper.

By using a specialized in situ mechanical testing device in a transmission electron microscope at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, the team could examine — with sub-nanoscale resolution — the localized nature of this deformation. This technique could help accelerate how reactor designers find suitable materials for engineering components in nuclear plants by translating nanoscale strength values into bulk properties

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D. Kiener, P Hosemann, S. Maloy and A. Minor, "In situ nanocompression testing of irradiated copper," Nature Materials 2011; published online 6.26.11..