Nuclear Engineering Faculty Research

Nuclear Engineering Faculty Research

UF FIB towerAdvanced Materials Characterization

Assel Aitkaliyeva

A variety of traditional techniques (e.g., scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD)) are used to capture microstructural evolution in nuclear fuels and materials. However, these surface-based techniques do not accurately capture the complex microstructure of the fuel. We utilize new tomography-based techniques on nuclear fuels, which yield information on grains, fission products, and porosity structure in 3D. This type of data can be used as input to new phase-field models to predict fuel performance in a reactor.

Nuclear Modeling and SimulationModeling and Simulation

Chris McDevitt • Michael Tonks • Justin Watson

Modeling and simulation play a critical role in Nuclear Engineering since they provide a means to investigate the impact and role of radiation without having to work in harsh and dangerous radiation environments. They also provide a means to reduce the number of required experiments needed to design and certify for nuclear applications, to understand fundamental mechanisms defining radiation behavior and to ensure and improve the safety of devices exposed to radiation. At UF, we perform modeling and simulation of radiation behavior at length scales ranging from the atomic to the macroscale and in the areas of reactor physics, thermal-hydraulics and nuclear materials.

Nuclear Detection

James Baciak • Andreas Enqvist • Nathalie Wall

MOX BUsNuclear Fuels and Materials

Assel Aitkaliyeva • Michael Tonks • Nathalie Wall • Yong Yang

Materials exposed to radiation are damaged at the atomic scale, and this damage results in microstructure evolution that can severely impact their overall performance. This is true for materials exposed to radiation in space, in a nuclear reactor, or when near other radiation sources. This microstructure evolution is often enhanced by other aspects of the environment, such as large temperatures and temperature gradients. Each facet of this ever-changing microstructural progression has the potential to affect material performance and safety. The research at UF in nuclear materials includes understanding fundamental phenomena governing material performance in radiation environments, establishing connections between microstructure and physical properties, understanding effects of radiation, and design of new and improved material systems for current and next-generation reactors using both experimental and computational means.

Nuclear Security and Safeguards

James Baciak • Andreas Enqvist • Kyle Hartig • Nathalie Wall

Research in nuclear security and safeguards aim to keep our societies safe from impacts of nuclear materials, while enabling safe beneficial use of nuclear materials and technologies. This includes areas such as stewardship programs, detection of illicit or clandestine nuclear programs, and radiation signature detection systems. As well as applications that can discover lost and orphaned nuclear sources. Implementation examples of such technology can be found in air- and sea-ports, nuclear facilities, and national and international monitoring stations.

Nuclear fusion imagePlasma Physics and Nuclear Fusion

Chris McDevitt

Nuclear fusion carries the potential for a safe, plentiful, and non-carbon emitting source of energy. Science has made significant progress toward demonstrating the controlled release of fusion energy, but substantial scientific and technological obstacles to the practical realization of a fusion reactor remain. These include the presence of violent plasma instabilities leading to the sudden termination of the fusion discharge, localized thermal loads limiting the lifetime of critical components, and the turbulent transport of heat, particle, and momentum. Our research in this area focuses on describing the fundamental plasma processes underlying these challenges and identifying their impact on fusion components.


Nathalie Wall

Radiochemistry is the chemistry of radioactive materials. Radiochemistry skills are used in many concrete applications that impact society such as isotope production for medical applications, nuclear forensics for the safeguard of nuclear materials, nuclear waste management for the safe disposal of nuclear wastes and chronometry used to date samples and artifacts. 

Reactor Physics

Justin Watson

Reactor PhysicsReactor physics plays a vital role in determining the spatial and temporal variation of the neutron flux in nuclear systems. The flux distribution affects all aspects of nuclear operation including power, materials, economics and safety.  Changes in the flux or materials in nuclear systems feedback on each other. Understanding these feedback mechanisms is critical to accurately predicting safety parameters and performing design analysis. Research in reactor physics focus on the development of numerical methods for solving the Boltzmann Transport equation and the Bateman equation coupled to physics codes that model thermal-hydraulics and material performance.

Thermal Hydraulics

Justin Watson

Thermal HydraulicsThermal hydraulics plays a vital role in the energy extraction and safety of nuclear reactors. Research in thermal hydraulics focuses on nuclear plant design basis safety analysis, beyond design basis safety analysis, multiphysics simulations, economics and sustainability. This includes numerical model development, high fidelity coupled analysis and system analysis. This work involves the development and use of industry-standard system codes like the NRC-developed TRACE and GSE Systems GBWR simulator.