- Number 401 |
- November 18, 2013
For thousands of years, humanity has relied on light to reveal the mysteries of our universe, whether it's by observing the light given off by brightly burning stars or by shining light on the very small with microscopes.
Yet, according to recent evidence, scientists think that only about five percent of our Universe is made of visible matter: ordinary atoms that make up nearly everything we can see, touch and feel. The other 95 percent is composed of the so-called dark sector, which includes dark matter and dark energy. These are described as “dark” because we observe their effects on other objects rather than by “seeing” them directly. Now, to study the dark, scientists are turning to what they know about light, and they are pointing to a recently successful test of experimental equipment that suggests an exploration of the dark sector may be possible at DOE's Jefferson Lab.
While fuels used in commercial reactors in the United States today are already extremely robust, there is always an interest in improving the state of the art.
And while advanced fuel development is not a new program, the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station have led U.S. policymakers to reexamine current designs – can we do better?
DOE’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) is a partner with AREVA, the Universities of Wisconsin and Florida, the Electric Power Research Institute, TVA and Duke Power, on a project to identify, develop and begin testing new fuel concepts. The program is under the auspices of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The overall goal represents a materials science challenge – to identify advanced materials and / or fuel cladding that would improve performance and safety, both during reactor service and during long-term fuel storage.
DOE’s Ames Laboratory will soon acquire a Dynamic Nuclear Polarization-NMR spectrometer, which will be the first of its kind in the United States to be used in the study of materials and materials chemistry.
“The DNP-NMR is essentially a combination of two techniques, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy with nuclear magnetic resonance, which yields an amazing increase in sensitivity,” says Cynthia Jenks, assistant director of scientific planning for the Ames Laboratory and director of the chemical and biological sciences division. “In the types of materials we study, we’ve been able to demonstrate an enhancement of anywhere from eight to 30 times in signal sensitivity. Results that used to take a week to obtain will now take hours or minutes.”
DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories has been recognized for reducing the use of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) with an award in the Greenhouse Gas Scope 1 and 2 category, which applies to emissions from sources owned or controlled by a federal agency and from the generation of electricity, heat or steam purchased by a federal agency. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified SF6 as having the highest global warming potential of any gas, at 23,900 carbon dioxide equivalents.
Sandia’s Saturn and HERMES III pulsed power facilities use SF6 as an electrical insulator for high-voltage switching devices, such as spark gaps and cascade switches.