May 14, 2009:
DOE Awards Illinois' Scientists $1.5 Million for Next Generation Nuclear Plant Research


DOE Awards Illinois' Scientists $1.5 Million for Next Generation Nuclear Plant Research

May 14, 2009:

NPRE graduate student Di Yun and Jim Stubbins in the lab.

A group of University of Illinois' researchers led by Jim Stubbins, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, have been awarded nearly $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for research in developing the next generation of nuclear plants.

The new high-temperature, gas-cooled nuclear plants are designed to be efficient, "green" energy producers. The nuclear plants will be used to produce hydrogen very efficiently. When burned, the plants' hydrogen gas fuel will mix with the atmosphere to produce water vapor, a more ecologically-friendly byproduct than the carbon dioxide that fossil fuel plants produce.

The first of the next generation plants is scheduled to be operational by the year 2016. Before such plants can be built, however, researchers need to understand the damage the plants’ high temperatures and corrosive environments will have on structural materials, such as piping and energy exchange equipment. The scientists can then develop models to define limits for the materials' applications.

Collaborating with Stubbins in the three-year project, "Understanding Fundamental Material Degradation Processes in High Temperature Aggressive Chemomechanical Environments," are Huseyin Sehitoglu and Petros Sofronis, mechanical science and engineering, Andrew Gewirth, chemistry, and Ian Robertson, materials science and engineering. The multidisciplinary proposal from Illinois received the highest level of funding among the recently announced DOE projects.

By helping to develop the next generation of advanced nuclear technologies, the DOE's Nuclear Energy University Program is expected to play a key role in addressing the global climate crisis and moving the nation toward greater use of nuclear energy.

"As a zero-carbon energy source, nuclear power must be part of our energy mix as we work towards energy independence and meeting the challenge of global warming," said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. "The next generation of nuclear power plants--with the highest standards of safety, efficiency and environmental protection--will require the latest advancements in nuclear science and technology."

Contact: Jim Stubbins, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, 217/333-2295.

Writer: Susan Mumm editor/alumni affairs coordinator, Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, 217/244-5382 (campus office), 217/821-6866 (cell) 217/347-2166 (home office).

If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office, 217/244-7716, editor.