Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)

Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)
Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)

Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory

Reactor Materials Testing LaboratoryIn 2002, Professor Rick Holt (now Emeritus) established the NSERC/UNENE Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Nuclear Materials, initiating more than a decade of investment in nuclear materials research at Queen’s University. Professor Holt also had a vision to establish a safe and controlled environment to simulate in-reactor conditions, allowing more realistic investigations of damage that ensues within a nuclear reactor.

Since its establishment, the Queen’s Nuclear Materials Group has grown to its current composition of 25 members and, most recently, has solidified Professor Holt’s dream into an exciting reality. Led by Professor Mark Daymond, who took over as IRC in 2012, the Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL) is a state-of-the art, one-story facility that was officially launched in 2015. The pièce de résistance of this $17.5M facility is a tandem accelerator, which accelerates protons or helium ions to moderately high energy, simulating the effect of in-reactor neutron radiation while minimizing the associated risks to researchers. Moreover, the facility allows researchers to modulate specific features of the radiation, and other environmental factors such as temperature and stress, facilitating investigation into the long-term stability of reactor components.

Testing at the Reactor Materials Testing LaboratoryIn addition, the RMTL includes an electron microscopy suite, with both scanning electron and transmission electron microscopes to allow analyses at the nanometre scale. An in-house Mechanical Testing Laboratory also contains equipment to evaluate in-beam quasi-static and creep testing at elevated temperatures, as well as nano-indentation testing to evaluate the effects on the mechanical properties of irradiated samples. In doing this, researchers can determine whether the materials have been weakened or compromised in any way. As such, researchers can do precise investigations on how reactor materials respond to stress, radiation flux, change in temperature, corrosive environments, as well as how they react as the energy levels of the colliding particles are varied

With the current push to reduce our collective carbon footprint, nuclear power, hand-in-hand with renewables, has become one of the key modes for energy production in the world. Over the past decade, the Queen’s Nuclear Materials Group has honed the expertise to exploit the RMTL to its full capacity. Moreover, the RMTL will serve as a hub, attracting researchers, both nationally and internationally. Currently, collaborators include partners at McMaster University, Western University, the Royal Military College, University of Toronto, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Imperial College and Manchester University, Pennsylvania State University and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. Moreover, RMTL has support from Ontario Power Generation, CANDU Owners Group, UNENE and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. It is clear that the data collected through studies at the RMTL will help develop strategies to extend the effective lifetime of existing, as well as, new nuclear reactors to support a more environmentally friendly energy path that the global community has chosen to tread.

Funded by CFI 

http://www.rmtl.ca