New Materials for Nuclear Realtors

“I’m contributing novel nondestructive evaluation characterization techniques so we can develop new materials for accident-tolerant nuclear fuel rods.”

Trishelle Copeland-Johnson is a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering. She was recently awarded an American Society for Nondestructive Testing Fellowship for her research in new materials for nuclear reactors.

Safer, stronger fuel rod materials
“I am involved with disaster-based research based on the explosions observed at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in 2011. These explosions were attributed to the failure of a protective barrier layer that grows on the encasements, which we call claddings, used to seal radioactive fuel to form a nuclear fuel rod. The barrier layer shields the fuel rod from the extreme environment inside the reactor.

“I am contributing to the development of a new class of materials to construct fuel rods with ‘accident-tolerant’ capabilities, in which the barrier layer can withstand the emergency conditions observed at Fukushima, including temperatures of over 1000 C for extended periods inside the nuclear reactors, providing operators additional time to restore normal operations.”

Novel, nondestructive techniques
“Here at Iowa State, I’m a member of Nicola Bowler’s research group that specializes in electromagnetic nondestructive evaluation techniques. My background is characterization of materials at the nano- and microscale with techniques like microscopy and X-ray diffraction.

“The ASNT Fellowship provides me with an opportunity to intersect my expertise with that of my research group to develop novel NDE techniques for measuring the growth of barrier layers grown on accident-tolerant fuel rod claddings.”

Find your champions
“Find people who will advocate and support you, when others doubt you because of their own implicit biases about the competence of women of color who pursue technical fields. At a predominately white institution like Iowa State, those allies will most likely not look like you, but regardless they are genuinely good people who want you to succeed.”