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New and upcoming ideas in nuclear engineering?

  1. Mar 25, 2013 #1
    For example, what potential do interactions like pair production have in harnessing the idea of converting photons to mass have in the future of nuclear engineering? Or what about quantum tunneling as the basis of fusion/fission? is it getting cold in here, yet?

    What are the new ideas out there? Or is nuke a stagnant art?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2013 #2


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    New ideas in engineering have to justify their acceptance. They should ideally be cheaper to implement, as well as safer and more efficient than existing practice, but often just one big improvement is enough justification.
    Please help us see the advantage(s) provided by the approaches you mention.
  4. Mar 25, 2013 #3


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    I don't see the practicality or utility of creating e-e+ pairs in large quantities. Other than high energy collisions, it takes ~1.022 MeV gamma rays to produce 1 pair, and then eventually the positron annihilates and one gets two 0.511 MeV gammas. One could produce positron emitters, but there appears no reasonable utility as an energy.

    There are plenty of challenges in materials - high strength at temperature, maximal fracture toughness, corrosion resistance, fission product retention, . . . .

    For fission systems, fission product disposition is a critical area.

    GenIV systems are challenging.

    Fusion still has to be perfected as a commercially viable energy source. Plasma stability is a challenge.

    Finding a highly efficient thermal to electrical conversion system is a challenge.
  5. Mar 29, 2013 #4
    There are always new ideas to be explored in nuclear engineering. The biggest area of opportunity is in developing reactors like the High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) and the various types of molten salt (or liquid metal) reactors including both thermal and fast spectra. I believe you are looking for more physics problems to solve where as most current problems (in nuclear) are in the realm of material science, reactor physics, and fluids.
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