NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT


2016 NSE Graduate Research Expo

2016 Grad Expo

NSE’s 2016 Graduate Research Expo was held on March 11 and kicked off MIT’s visit weekend for prospective graduate students. The event provides a unique opportunity for the visitors and MIT community to learn more about the diverse research being conducted within NSE by faculty and graduate students. The topics in the 2016 Expo ranged from developing new algorithms for efficient computational modeling of reactors to characterizing the heat transfer at the clad-coolant interface, to modeling the material properties of molten salt coolants for advanced reactor designs. The breadth of projects captured the interdisciplinary nature of nuclear science and engineering, which sits at the intersection of material science, mechanical engineering, physics, and computer science. Along with a poster session three students — Alexandre Guion, Brandon Sorbom, and Lixin Sun — spoke about their research.

Microscale boiling and heat transfer

In his presentation entitled “New understanding in microscale boiling phenomena: moving contact lines and microlayer formation”, Alexandre Guion described his work on a coupling experimental and computational modeling to understand the details of boiling; a critical problem in nuclear energy. His approach is to ┬ástudy the growth of liquid microlayers and their impact on heat transfer in reactor fuel elements. His research seeks to accurately model the time-evolution of the liquid microlayer as a bubble forms, expands, and departs from a surface and enable more-efficient heat transfer at higher temperatures. Watch video of talk

Fusion Energy, Accelerated

Brandon Sorbom’s presentation entitled “I feel the need...the need for speed: Using particle accelerators to achieve faster fusion materials research” discussed work being conducted at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) on new superconducting magnets that are being used to advance fusion energy research and the use of particle accelerators to achieve faster fusion materials research.

The achievable fusion power of a reactor scales with magnetic field strength to the fourth power, hence small improvements in magnets can yield large increases in reactor power. Together with colleagues at the PSFC, Brandon has designed a new affordable, robust, compact (ARC) reactor that utilizes advances in high-temperature superconductors to increase the magnetic field strength and thereby improve plasma performance while keeping the fusion reactor size, and more importantly cost, manageable. Watch video of talk

Beyond the Reactor — Understanding the Microstructures of Reducible Oxide Materials

Lixin Sun’s presentation focused on the computational modeling of point defects in oxide lattices and assessing their impact on oxygen conductivity in the neighborhood of defect sites decreasing the performance of devices in which the material is used. In a talk entitled “Dig deep into microstructure: a computational perspective on extended defects in reducible oxide materials” Sun likened defects to traffic jams in mass transport. While their size is small, their impact can hinder mass transport across a wide area. Similarly materials that have high defect densities can have poor bulk oxygen conductivities, resulting in poor device performance. Sun’s work in modeling the impact of different cation dopants in a metal oxide lattice shows how understanding of materials at the micro-scale can inform the design of bulk materials for devices used in systems to support advanced nuclear reactors. Watch video of talk

22 students participated in NSE’s 2016 Graduate Research Expo.

Poster presentations by

William Boyd
Etienne Demarly
Cody Dennett
Ittinop Dumnernchanvanit
Sara Ferry
Carl Haugen
Miaomiao Jin
Colin Josey
Leigh Kesler
Peisi Le
YiXiang Liu
Michael Pantano
Jill Marie Rahon
Andrew Richenderfer
Becky Romatoski
Samuel Shaner
Akira Sone
Cong Su
Yanin Sukjai
Jayson Vavrek
Lun Yu
Chuteng Zhou

Oral presentations by

Alexandre Guion (Fission)
Brandon Sorbom (Fusion)
Lixin Sun (RST/nuclear security/materials)

All students who presented in the 2016 NSE Research Expo are PhD candidates in NSE.


Written by Samuel Shaner
Photos by Justin Knight