Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cool Stuff for Nuclear Nerds

Since I'm not doing engineering work on a day-to-day basis anymore, sometimes I don't hear about what kind of cool research is going on. For instance, at MIT engineers are doing some fascinating work to improve the performance of PWRs.

First, they are playing around with fuel pellet design.

They changed the shape of the fuel from solid cylinders to hollow tubes. This added surface area that allows water to flow inside and outside the pellets, increasing heat transfer. The new fuel turned out even better than Hejzlar dared hope. It proved to be easy to manufacture and capable of boosting the plant power output of PWRs by 50 percent.
They are also looking at improving the overall efficiency of the plant. Some of you may remember my tongue-in-cheek suggestion about improving on the efficiency of the thermodynamic cycle in a post last month.

Well, color me red and call me jolly--that's exactly what they are trying to do!
[Buongiorno's] laboratory works on nanofluids - base fluids such as water interspersed with tiny particles of oxides and metals only billionths of a meter in diameter. Buongiorno's nano-spiked water, transparent but somewhat murky, can remove up to two times more heat than ordinary water, making it an ideal substance for nuclear plants.
Gosh. It almost makes me want to go back to MIT, lock myself in a lab for 16 hours a day and get in on some of this research...Ok, those of you that know me are probably breaking out in gales of laughter, but it IS exciting, isn't it?

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