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Multimetallic Layered Composites (MMLCs) for Rapid, Economical Advanced Reactor Deployment

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,688,982
Location: 
Cambridge, MA
Project Term: 
05/29/2019 to 05/28/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Radiation can adversely affect solid materials, degrading their properties so that they are no longer mechanically sound. Specifically, radiation can embrittle and stress metals, causing fractures and corrosion cracking. It can also swell concrete and compromise its strength. After decades of development, no advanced (Generation IV) nuclear reactor has yet come close to commercialization in the U.S. This is, in part, because it takes years to prove that nuclear reactor building materials--also usually quite expensive--can stand up to long-term radiation. Experimental measurements alone are not always sufficient to fully realize the quantitative correlation between the radiation source and material response, particularly in complex environments where multiple effects (e.g., corrosion and radiation) must be simultaneously considered.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will lead a team including Georgia Tech, Louisiana Tech, and the Idaho National Lab in developing multimetallic layered composites (MMLCs) for advanced nuclear reactors and assessing how they will improve reactor performance. Rather than seeking complex alloys that offer exceptional mechanical properties or corrosion resistance at unacceptable cost, this team will develop materials with functionally graded layers, each with a specific function. The team will seek general design principles and engineer specific MMLC embodiments. The materials developed will be tested using irradiation experiments, coupled with predictive models for performance under irradiation. To date, the issue of material performance at low cost has proved a challenge for advanced reactor deployment. Developing a scalable method of materials manufacturing and testing for advanced nuclear reactors could facilitate their rapid deployment, thereby reducing energy-related emissions and improving energy efficiency.
Potential Impact: 
This project aims to develop MMLCs, engineered materials that offer the properties needed for demanding future nuclear reactor requirements. Through realizing MMLCs, a pathway toward advanced reactors may be enabled.
Security: 
The technology will reestablish U.S. leadership in advanced metal composite development.
Environment: 
This solution will reduce energy-related emissions by enabling rapid, advanced nuclear reactor deployment and improve energy efficiency via the higher thermodynamic efficiency and closed fuel cycles of advanced nuclear reactors.
Economy: 
This work will reinvigorate U.S. steel and specialty metals industries by creating design principles for new engineered materials suitable for future advanced reactors and other demanding applications. In addition, it will explicitly test MMLC manufacture at commercial scale on domestic facilities to demonstrate a high technology readiness level.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh
Project Contact: 
Prof. Michael Short
Partners
Georgia Institute of Technology
Louisiana Tech University
Idaho National Laboratory
Release Date: 
11/15/2018