Research

Research

The Nuclear Engineering program of the University of California at Berkeley is comprised of classroom and laboratory instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and a strong, diverse research program.

The projects are part of the Department's ongoing mission to provide an education to individuals who will make key contributions and become future leaders serving California and the nation by improving and applying nuclear science and technology.

Students interested in study towards the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees should contact appropriate faculty members to determine their individual research directions.

Research Areas

Applied Nuclear Physics

  • This area of study is concerned with the low-energy nuclear physics and interaction of radiation with matter important to nuclear chemistry, nuclear technology and applications. Research programs include fundamental nuclear physics measurements for applied purposes and the development of advanced detectors and methodologies, in addition to the application of nuclear techniques in a wide range of studies. Current emphasis is on experimental and modeling studies in support of neutrino mass measurements, the design of methodologies and systems to counter the possible transport of clandestine nuclear materials and applications in the biomedical and radiological sciences.

Bionuclear and Radiological Physics

  • Study in this area is concerned with the biological effects of radiation, dosimetry, radiation shielding, radiation protection, and the development of methods based on the application of radiation for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of illness and disease. Research is focused on medical imaging, boron neutron capture therapy, and radioactive tracers, computerized tomography, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging.

Energy Systems and the Environment

  • Study in this area focuses on renewable and clean energy techniques, particularly solar, wind and biomass sources. Research and teaching activities focus on the performance, efficiency, economics, and dissemination of these energy systems. The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) in Etcheverry Hall supports this program area.

Ethics and the Impact of Technology on Society

  • Study in this area focuses on the emerging ethical and technical issues arising in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and nuclear technology. The program examines how philosophy, religion and art, and natural and social science can shed light on these issues, as well as how individual and societal values are affected by these technologies.

Fission Reactor Analysis

  • Study in this area encompasses the synthesis of the basic components of nuclear technology in the engineering and design of nuclear reactors. Problems of heat removal, stress analysis, reactor dynamics and control, and nuclear reactor safety are considered. Current reactor designs are considered in support of life extension and near term construction, and future systems are also considered for future missions of high economic and safety performance, proliferation resistance, and capabilities to provide new products and services including hydrogen and actinide management.

Fuel Cycles and Radioactive Waste

  • This area of study is devoted to the development of methods and models (theoretical and/or experimental) for analyzing processes that handle nuclear materials from cradle to grave. The methods and models developed are utilized for evaluating environmental impacts, economics, and proliferation resistance of a fuel cycle, and for designing an optimized fuel-cycle system. Basic research includes the development of deterministic models and the experimental data to support them, probabilistic methods and models and optimization methods. An initial focus is on Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which aims at improved utilization of repository capacity for civilian spent nuclear fuel from current light-water reactors, with help of systems for separation and transmutation of problematic radionuclides.

Fusion Science and Technology

  • This area of study deals with current approaches to the design of fusion power plants. For both the magnetic and the inertial confinement schemes, problems of particle confinement, plasma heating, reactor materials, fusion reactor neutronics, safety, and environmental impacts are analyzed. Experimental facilities for plasma research include the Berkeley Compact Toroid Experiment (BCTX) on the campus and several large collaborative efforts at LLNL and LBL. The Rotating Target Neutron Source (RTNS), an accelerator-based fusion neutron source, is also on theBerkeley campus and is used for fusion neutron studies.

Laser, Particle Beam, and Plasma Technologies

  • This area of study includes a broad spectrum of new technologies related to charged particles and fields. The topical areas range from interaction of lasers with plasmas, to charged particle beam physics, to plasma technologies such as lighting and material processing discharges. Applications range from laser-plasma interactions to discharges for lighting, material modification and microelectronic fabrication, from microwave-beam interactions for microwave sources and plasma heating to plasma devices such as thrusters and ion and electron beam sources.

Nuclear Materials and Chemistry

  • This area of study is devoted to understanding the many causes of materials degradation and failure in nuclear technology. Specific emphasis is on the behavior of nuclear fuels, cladding and structural materials in nuclear fission and fusion environments where radiation damage and corrosion are the overarching concerns. This research combines computational, experimental and theoretical techniques to investigate the dynamic response of nuclear materials. The Nuclear Material Laboratory uses thermogravimetric techniques with microbalances to investigate the hydriding and oxidation of nuclear reactor core materials and positron annihilation spectroscopy to characterize the microstructural changes in irradiated structural steels. In addition to understanding the performance of nuclear fuels and materials in current nuclear fission plants, the materials aspects of new fuel element designs and advanced nuclear fuels and structural material systems are investigated.

Nuclear Thermal Hydraulics

  • This area of study is devoted improving the current understanding of the heat and mass transfer, and fluid mechanics processes which transport energy and mass in nuclear systems, and govern system performance and safety. Key phenomena studied include conduction, convection, and radiation heat transfer, phase change, and single and multi-phase flows. In addition to water used to transport heat in present-day reactors, study in this area also covers gas, molten salt, and liquid metal coolants for advanced fission and fusion systems, as well as transport and mixing processes that occur inside reactor containment structures and in environmental systems.

Risk, Safety and Large-Scale Systems Analysis

  • This area of study is devoted to the development of methods and models and the acquisition of empirical data for assessing the impacts of large-scale technological systems on public health and safety, and the environment. Basic research includes the development of deterministic models and the experimental data to support them, probabilistic methods and models and optimization methods. An initial focus is on Generation IV nuclear energy systems, which integrates the nuclear fuel cycle in terms of high-level radioactive waste disposal, nuclear reactor safety, overall fuel cycle analysis and economics, and safeguards and security.

Research Facilities

  • The facilities of the department include the Nuclear Waste Research Laboratory, the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), the Advanced Nuclear Engineering Computational Laboratory, several research and teaching laboratories, and well-equipped mechanical and electronic shops. The neutronics laboratory includes a tandem pelletron accelerator, a variety of radiation-analysis instrumentation, and subcritical multiplying assemblies. Experimental facilities for the study of thermal problems include two-phase flow and transient-boiling apparatus, and for the study of materials problems include a variety of equipment for high-temperature and high-vacuum experiments. We have established a new Radiation Detection and Imaging Laboratory housing projects focusing on detection of gamma rays and neutrons. Experimental facilities include Electron tracking based Compton imaging instruments; High-resolution, scientific CCD, temperature variable cryostat, double-sided strip HPGe detector, and fully digital data acquisition system (including 10 8-channel, 16 bit, 100 MHZ waveform digitizer system); a Class-10,000 clean room for development, assembly, and characterization of semi-conductor devices, including a probe station, a clean device storage area, and a class-100 work bench; High energy gamma-ray imaging instruments for radiography experiments consisting of custom-made, collimated 8x8 (5x5x50 mm3) BGO array and data acquisition system. The Nuclear Materials laboratory has acquired polishers, a high speed cutting saw as well as two high temperature multi zone tube furnaces. Advanced sample preparation equipment includes a Buehler Vibramet, a 1000 degree optical microscope, a microhardness tester, and a high temperature high-low load nano-indenter.

  • Students have opportunities to work on site in facilities at nearby Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.