U Engineering to Work with Versatile Test Reactor

Engineers from the University of Utah’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering are working with a large team of researchers to prepare experiments for the U.S. Department of Energy’s upcoming Versatile Test Reactor to test various molten salt reactor technologies.

These experiments are part of just one research project that will take advantage of the VTR, which is designed to test fuels, materials and sensors for power reactors. While the VTR is going through a federal approval process and has not yet been built, projects such as the one the U’s MSE department is working on are already underway.

The Idaho National Laboratory has published a new story about what the U’s experiment will be about, which involves the MSE chair, Michael Simpson, and involves irradiating molten salt to see how it would change.

Click here to read the INL story.

Discover the materials of the future … in 30 seconds or less

Since the dawn of history, the materials available to man have defined the very substance of society. The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and eventually to the Iron and Steel Ages. We now enter the Information Age where technologists must balance a dynamic harmony between traditional approaches and transformational new tools. In this fascinating talk, Dr. Taylor Sparks will explain how he is working to reduce the trial and error of new materials discovery.

Dr. Taylor Sparks is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. He is originally from Utah and an alumni of the department he now teaches in. He did his MS in Materials at UCSB and his PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University and then did a postdoc in the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. He is currently the Director of the Materials Characterization Lab at the University of Utah and teaches classes on ceramics, materials science, characterization, and technology commercialization.

His current research centers on the discovery, synthesis, characterization, and properties of new materials for energy applications. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of materials informatics whereby big data, data mining, and machine learning are leveraged to solve challenges in materials science. When he’s not in the lab you can find him running his podcast “Materialism” or canyoneering with his 3 kids in southern Utah. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Metallurgy Ph.D. Now Makes Medical Radioisotopes

During his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, Dr. Milan Stika studied molten salt electrochemistry under Prof. Michael Simpson. They worked on methods for measuring concentrations of actinides in molten salts used for applications such as nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel reprocessing. After a brief stint working for Flibe Energy on development of molten salt fueled nuclear reactors, Milan now works at Niowave, Inc., a company that produces radioisotopes used for medical diagnostics and cancer treatment. The company has a great team of accelerator physicists, nuclear engineers, and radiochemists supporting its mission. As a radiochemist, Milan works on projects that deal with separation of individual radioactive elements.

Niowave irradiates uranium targets to induce fission which creates a variety of useful fission products. The target is then dissolved so that fission products like molybdenum-99 can be harvested. Uranium is first pulled away from the rest of the elements using solvent extraction. It is then recycled into a new target. The elements useful for medical applications are then separated from each other using ion exchange resins and other methods.

Niowave also irradiates radium targets to produce actinium-225, a useful medical isotope along with other alpha emitters for targeted alpha therapy. Actinium is separated from radium and other products of the radium decay chain. Niowave is currently the only US private company producing actinium-225.

According to Milan, “the Department of Metallurgical Engineering was instrumental in helping me prepare for this exciting job in the nuclear sector by offering relevant coursework, networking opportunities, and advisor guidance.”