Quantitative Characterisation of Structure in Nuclear Graphite

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

The aim of this PhD research is to establish reliable/novel approaches to quantify the key structural features inside nuclear graphite. Such quantitative characterisation is essential for underpinning true mechanisms governing neutron irradiation-induced and/or -assisted damage and deformation of nuclear graphite under different loading and temperature conditions. Such evidence-based mechanistic understanding will instruct the modelling of property and structure changes at a scale from atomic, nanometer, micron, up to macro. To achieve the aim, the following research topics are proposed as the main focus of the PhD researcher: (a) Pore and micro-crack structure analysis with focused ion beam microscopy. The research will focus on the quantitative analysis of 2D images and reconstructed 3D pore/micro-crack tomography structure. Advanced image analysis techniques and algorithms will be developed for quantification-based comparative studies among different graphite grades, and those with different reactor/MTR histories for the same grade. The research outcomes will be further analysed with tomography data acquired via other techniques used in other research groups. (b) Crystal structure disordering analysis by Raman and TEM. The objective of this research is to establish a non-destructive method that can quantitatively map the variation of disordered graphite crystallites, or graphene, inside nuclear graphite. Such disordering information is expected to have a strong relationship with irradiation history, i.e. neutron dosage, temperature, loading level and type, and oxidation. (c) True texture characterisation of graphite. Texture of graphite can have strong influence on the physical properties of graphite, and brings the heterogeneity in physical properties along different directions. Texture can be further evolved during irradiation, particularly with help of compression/tension loading. The PhD research will use various methods to quantitatively characterise the true texture of a nuclear graphite.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509516/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1965674 Studentship EP/N509516/1 01/10/2017 30/12/2021 Daniel Bradshaw
 
Description To keep the UK's nuclear reactors operational, a greater understanding of the critical graphite material is required. Many decades of research have been conducted, on the material, but a greater understanding at the micron and sub-micron levels is required; using advanced techniques, we are furthering the knowledge of nuclear graphite's microstructure at this length scale. It is believed the work will contribute towards predictive modelling determining when a reactor is shutdown.
Exploitation Route The experimental output of this work will aid in the development of the safety cases, pertaining to the continual operation of the UK's nuclear reactor fleet. Similarly, it is expected the experimental techniques developed during this project will be utilised by industry moving forwards on future generations of nuclear power stations.
Sectors Energy

 
Description ENGIN-X Collaboration with Bristol University 
Organisation University of Bristol
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was involved with the experimental work, conducted at ISIS Neutron & Muon Source, alongside collaborators. During most of the beamtime I was the project lead. Data processing was also conducted by myself and members of my research team alongside our collaborators.
Collaborator Contribution Experimental concept devised and developed by partners (Bristol University) and members of my research team. Collaborators also aided in the collection of experimental data, data processing, and discussions.
Impact Work ongoing but believed it will result in publications furthering understanding of graphite grades used in current and future civil nuclear reactors.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Quantitative Characterisation of Nuclear Graphite 
Organisation EDF Energy
Department EDF Energy Nuclear Generation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The entire research project is in collaboration with both EDF Energy and National Nuclear Laboratory. The collaborations access to information/expertise and also facilities not otherwise accessible.
Collaborator Contribution The entire research project is in collaboration with both EDF Energy and National Nuclear Laboratory. The collaborations access to information/expertise and also facilities not otherwise accessible.
Impact Work ongoing.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Quantitative Characterisation of Nuclear Graphite 
Organisation National Nuclear Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The entire research project is in collaboration with both EDF Energy and National Nuclear Laboratory. The collaborations access to information/expertise and also facilities not otherwise accessible.
Collaborator Contribution The entire research project is in collaboration with both EDF Energy and National Nuclear Laboratory. The collaborations access to information/expertise and also facilities not otherwise accessible.
Impact Work ongoing.
Start Year 2018
 
Description 6th EDF-Energy Nuclear Graphite Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact British Carbon Group organised conference pertaining to research supporting the continuing operation of the Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors in the UK. The purpose was to integrate within the wider nuclear graphite community (other academic institutions and companies) and to give a wider, real-world, context to the research undertaken during the PhD. A greater understanding of the real-world context, and potential impact, of research was gained and potential experimental collaborations were discussed.

Discussions centred around how research can contribute to the research themes outlined by the research community, UK reactor fleet operator (EDF Energy UK Ltd), and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.



Reducing the COMPLEXITY of arguments

Maximising CONFIDENCE in predictions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Early Stage Carbon Researchers Networking Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Meeting devoted to UK carbon research at the National Graphene Institute: early stage researchers from industry and academia presented their work to their peers and members of the field. Promoted discussion between postgraduate students/industry in different fields of carbon research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Internal School Research Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact University departmental research conference wherein every postgraduate student presented their PhD work, in some capacity. Designed to promote discussion and learning across different research fields. Potential collaborations and new learning potential learning methods identified, as was potential cross-school collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description International Nuclear Graphite Specialists Meeting 20 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Conference of world leading nuclear graphite specialists discussing recent advancements and research themes within the field. Work conducted as part of the funded research project was presented and discussed with international colleagues (including both academic/research institutions and commercially operated organisations).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019