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The Ultrafast Spectroscopy Group in the Department of Nuclear Engineering explores several topics in plasma science and nuclear engineering, whose applications include astrophysics, industrial plasma processing, and advanced nuclear reactors. Dr. Bataller’s research group specializes in the application of ultrafast laser techniques for probing matter in extreme environments.

Research

Molten-salt Ultrafast Spectroscopy Characterization Laboratory (MUSCL)

Our increasing need for safe, abundant, reliable, and carbon-free energy sources is stimulating renewed interest in nuclear energy. Among these interests is the application of molten salts for advanced fuel cycles and next generation nuclear reactors. Although concepts incorporating molten salt for nuclear reactors date back almost 70 years, our fundamental understanding of molten salt behavior remains largely undeveloped. The resurgence of molten salt research in the age of ultrafast materials characterization offers us an exciting new opportunity for developing future nuclear energy technologies. Establishing modern experimental techniques for benchmarking first-principles models of molten salt structural and fluid properties is an essential research task for the successful operation and safeguarding of our future nuclear energy facilities. MUSCL is exploring new methods for measuring both micro- and macroscopic properties of molten salts by leveraging the unique properties of short pulse lasers. For example, our research group is developing a time-domain thermoreflectance characterization tool for measuring heat transfer properties of molten salts. Salts will be placed in our custom vacuum furnace that enables high temperature operation, optical microscopy, and both fluoride and chloride compatibility.

 

Ultrafast pump-probe method for measuring heat transfer properties of molten salts. Optical setup and furnace are near completion!

 

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