Los Alamos National Laboratory
Nuclear Materials Science (MST-16)

Materials Properties

The Materials Properties Team of MST-16 studies the thermodynamic and mechanical properties of a wide range of nuclear materials, from single crystals of exotic plutonium compounds to aged plutonium alloys to mixed-oxide fuels. Our measurement capabilities include resonant ultrasound spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, dilatometry, precision immersion density, and quasi-static mechanical testing. We use a range of materials processing tools, including single-crystal growth, arc melting, casting, rolling, and heat treating. These capabilities are primarily located in the Plutonium Facility at TA-55 and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building.

Materials properties are used over a range of temperatures in conjunction with microstructure to understand the physics and engineering performance of nuclear materials, such as in a nuclear weapon or reactor, and to provide fundamental information on the electronic structure of actinides. To this end, the team supports a wide range of programs, including Plutonium Sustainment, Pit Surveillance, Dynamic Plutonium Experiments, Fuel Cycle Research and Development, Laboratory-Directed Research and Development, and various threat reduction programs.

Plutonium experiments conducted at the Sandia National Laboratory Z Accelerator Facility

Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) successfully conducted the first plutonium (Pu) isentropic (constant entropy) compression experiments on the refurbished Z machine. The experiment is a continuation of studies performed at SNL prior to the major refurbishment of the Z machine, which increased its pulsed power output. The Z machine concentrates electrical energy and converts it into short pulses of controlled magnetic pressure, which create conditions on a small scale similar to those experienced by matter with the detonation of nuclear weapons. This capability is extremely useful in the study of weapons effects. This experiment marks the first in a collaborative series of dynamic properties experiments on plutonium being planned for the Z machine during FY11. To read more

Plutonium equation of state experiments under pressure at Advanced Photon Source

The experimentally obtained equation of state of materials under pressure is of importance not only for the validation of models employing theoretical inter-atomic potentials and electronic structure calculations, but primarily to improve our understanding of materials properties under extreme conditions. For plutonium, this data is particularly important to theorists as they struggle to develop a realistic electronic structure model capable of predicting the numerous crystal structure transitions plutonium undergoes in pressure and temperature space. Researchers at Los Alamos are utilizing diamond anvil cell techniques to explore the compressive behavior of plutonium as a function of alloying composition and age.To read more

Team Leader, Jeremy Mitchell

  • Manny Chavez
  • Adam Farrow
  • Franz Freibert
  • James Gallegos
  • Max Martinez
  • Michael Ramos
  • Tarik Saleh
  • Daniel Schwartz
  • Paul Tobash
arc melter
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