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UNM nuclear engineering professor leads Department of Energy project to study magnetic field effects on coolants for fusion

October 23, 2023 - by Kim Delker

Photo: Osman Anderoglu
Osman Anderoglu

A professor at The University of New Mexico Department of Nuclear Engineering is leading a Department of Energy project that will study effects of external magnetic field on metallic coolants, which will create robust research and internship opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students in the area of fusion energy.

Osman Anderoglu, associate professor of nuclear engineering, is the principal investigator of “Liquid Metal-Materials Interactions in Extreme Environments,” which is funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative.

Co-principal investigators are Guillermo I. Maldonado and Nicholas R. Brown from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Sergey Smolentsev, Marie Romedenne and Bruce Pint from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Anderoglu said project will provide hands-on experience to students in a rapidly evolving field conducting never-before-done research and experiments.

“As part of the project, we will construct a new experimental setup to study magnetic field effects on flowing metallic coolants, which will be a one-of-a-kind facility in the U.S.,” he said. “One of the outcomes of the project will be to a unique and sustainable experiential-based research and educational program for the next generation of researchers and engineers in key areas of liquid metal coolant technology for fusion energy.”

At UNM, two undergraduates and two graduate students will be selected to be part of this project, and they will be joined by a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addition to academic and hands-on learning, they will have internship opportunities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Specifically, the research will focus on the effects of external magnetic field on eutectic lead-lithium flow, including magnetohydrodynamics and structural materials compatibility.

Anderoglu has been working with molten lead for advanced fission reactors the past several years at UNM, experience that will feed into this new project. However, he said lead-lithium is quite different when it comes to structural materials compatibility, and adding in external magnetic field effects make this research more challenging.

“This challenge not only makes the project exciting but also helps with educating and training the next generation of engineers and scientists,” he said.

The project started this month and is expected to last three years. RENEW funding will support internships, training programs and mentor opportunities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), Emerging Research Institutions (ERIs) and other research institutions.

The UNM project is part of $70 million worth of projects at 65 institutions to support historically underrepresented groups STEM with the goal of diversifying leadership in the physical sciences, including energy and climate.