LANL probes mysteries of uranium dioxide’s thermal conductivity

-A A +A

Nearly 20 percent of the electricity in the United States is generated by nuclear energy from uranium dioxide fuel, but mysteries still surround exactly how the material controls the electrical production: poor thermal conductivity can limit the conversion rate of heat produced by fission, however we don’t know the physics underlying this behavior or, as it turns out, some of the properties to which it gives rise.
“A deeper understanding of the physics that governs the performance of important engineering materials, such as uranium dioxide, should lead to improvements in efficiency and safety,” said David Andersson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project, “which are ultimate goals of the Department of Energy’s program to develop advanced predictive computer models of nuclear reactor performance.”
New research at Los Alamos is showing that the thermal conductivity of cubic uranium dioxide is strongly affected by interactions between phonons carrying heat and magnetic spins. “This leads to unexpected behavior of the thermal conductivity: For example, in single crystals the measured thermal conductivity is different along the side or edge of the cubic unit cell than along the diagonal, even at and above room temperature,” said Andersson.

If you subscribe to the newspaper, you receive FREE access to all the exclusive content of the web site! Simply register to receive uninterrupted access to our award-winning and in-depth local online content!

Renew Current or Past Subscription / Register for Online Subscription

If you currently subscribe or have subscribed in the past to the Los Alamos Monitor, then simply find your account number on your mailing label and enter it below.

Click the question mark below to see where your account ID appears on your mailing label.

Newspaper Acct. ID:
Street Address:
(exactly as it appears on the label)

If you are a subscriber and you do not know your account ID or don't have a copy of your newspaper available that shows the information on the address label you can click continue below to search for your account.

New Subscription/30 Day Free Trial Account

If you are new to the award winning Los Alamos Monitor and wish to get a subscription or simply gain access to our online content then please enter your ZIP code below and continue to setup your account.

ZIP Code:

Create a limited access account.
Register to participate in community forums, post on the community calendar, blog etc. This registration does not give you full access to read our award winning content, etc.

The Los Alamos Monitor | lacirculation@lamonitor.com | 505-662-4185
256 DP Road, Los Alamos, NM 87544
Office Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday