My name is Christopher Stuart Daniel and I am a postgraduate Nuclear EngD Research Engineer based in the School of Materials at the University of Manchester. The title of my project is “Texture development during rolling of Zr & ZrNb alloys” and I work within a zirconium (Zr) based research group - exploring the behaviour of Zr materials during processing through to optimising in-reactor performance.
During a nuclear materials module of my undergraduate study, I became extremely interested in how materials have been optimised to meet the extreme environmental demands placed on components within a nuclear reactor. The opportunity of studying how microstructural changes are induced during the processing of Zr stood out as a project that was both exciting and fascinating. Additionally, the Nuclear EngD programme not only allows me to conduct an extremely interesting research project (that will be valued by both industry and academia), but supports my ambitions to progress to a leading role within the nuclear sector.
Prior to enrolling on the Nuclear EngD programme, I completed an undergraduate masters degree in Physics (MPhys) at the University of Manchester. I thoroughly enjoyed these 4 years of study and would rate my experience at the University as excellent. It seemed a natural decision to want to contribute to the world-class research that goes on throughout this University.
Texture of α-phase Zr describes the favoured distribution of hexagonal close-packed (hcp) crystallographic orientations, with respect to the dimensions of a component sample. Orientations within the Zr material result from rolling processes; through application of temperature and strain during thermo mechanical manufacture. In nuclear reactor service, texture determines the mechanical properties of fuel cladding and structural components. Thus, in order to optimise in-reactor performance and improve the service lifetime of components, a greater understanding of deformation texture evolution during manufacture is required. Specifically, my project aims to experimentally investigate texture development in dual phase α+β Zr alloys to improve models of thermo mechanical processing for Zr component fabrication.
One of things I really enjoy about my research is producing a clear result, such as an electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) map which displays the orientation and grain morphology of my Zr material, is one of the most satisfying aspects of my research. This brings together the culmination of a long procedure of testing, sample preparation and electron microscope analysis to yield a successful result.
I am pleased to say that I never have two days that turn out the same; whether I am conducting experiments and rolling material at high temperature, analysing specimens using an electron microscope/x-ray diffraction, preparing presentations and reports, away at a conference, or meeting with my sponsoring company.
As a Nuclear EngD Research Engineer, my project is heavily influenced by what my industrial sponsor hopes to achieve from the research. This close collaboration allows for my work to directly inform industrial thermo mechanical processing models for Zr alloys and I meet regularly with the company to justify the results and the impact these may have.
The impact that I hope to have on future energy landscapes is to provide fundamental Zr research and improve the knowledge of nuclear material capabilities for longer lifetime and greater performance core capabilities, making nuclear power the most viable option for the future energy landscape.
The composition of Zr alloys are designed to primarily improve the corrosion behaviour of the material. With research continually reporting improvements in using new combinations of alloying elements, it is likely that new nuclear builds in the future will see longer service lifetime and greater core performance from fuel rods, improving the efficiency of reactors and providing continued stability to the UK’s energy supply.