Aluminum used in nuclear reactors and other harsh environments may last longer with new Carbon Nanotubes treatment.
Scientists keep on finding new applications or Carbon Nanotubes. MIT researchers applied carbon nanotubes to metal to make it last longer under radiation.
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One of the main reasons for limiting the operating lifetimes of nuclear reactors is that metals exposed to the strong radiation environment near the reactor core become porous and brittle, which can lead to cracking and failure.
Adding a very small quantity of carbon nanotubes to the metal can dramatically slow this breakdown process.
The carbon nanotube trick has so far only proved effective for aluminum, which limits its applications to the lower-temperature environments found in research reactors. But the team says the method may also be usable in the higher-temperature alloys used in commercial reactors.
"Aluminum is currently used in not only research reactor components but also nuclear batteries and spacecraft, and it has been proposed as material for storage containers for nuclear waste. So, improving its operating lifetime could have significant benefits," says Ju Li, who is the Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and a professor of materials science and engineering.
"The metal with carbon nanotubes uniformly dispersed inside is designed to mitigate radiation damage for long periods without degrading," says MIT postdoc Kang Kang Pyo So.
The findings are described in the journal Nano Energy, in a paper titled "Dispersion of carbon nanotubes in aluminum improves radiation resistance" by MIT Professor Ju Li, postdocs Kang Pyo So and Mingda Li, research scientist Akihiro Kushima, and 10 others at MIT, Texas A&M University, and universities in South Korea, Chile, and Argentina.