Penn State University


Student Profiles

Daniel AbercrombieDaniel Abercrombie, Penn State
Project Adviser: Dr. Igor Jovanovic

Development of Compact Laser-driven Radiation Source

Project Description: Direct laser acceleration of electrons is an attractive approach for production of high-energy electron beams, which are essential for most active nuclear interrogation systems. In this method the acceleration is achieved by direct use of the strong electric field of an ultrashort laser pulse propagating in a plasma waveguide, without the use of intervening plasma waves. The goal of this project was to support the production and characterization of a mm-scale plasma waveguide from interaction of the laser pulse with a helium gas jet, a critical step in developing the accelerator using this method. The secondary goal of the project is to develop a Monte Carlo model for bremsstrahlung production from the interaction of accelerated electrons with solid targets.

"I learned a lot about the field of research I was involved in as well as the way companies, such as Westinghouse, operate in the nuclear industry. I think the most valuable part is that I learned how to learn."

Kenechi AgbimKenechi Agbim, University of Pittsburgh, and Scott Petro, Penn State
Project Adviser: Dr. Hosam Fathy

Optimal Sensor Network Placement for Reactor-Site Tsunami Observability

Project Description: The goal of our project was to provide insight to the physics and propagation of tsunamis. We explored the factors affecting propagation path, principal technologies for detection and modeling of tsunamis, while also introducing a new model that will predict the path of propagation. Many tsunami incidents have caught societies and communities off guard, and caused many fatalities. Tsunami warning systems aim to prevent this situation, but often fall short of proper detection methods, due to lack of accurate propagation estimates. Our goal was to develop a location- and event-specific tsunami propagation model using control observers.

"This program has really inspired me to continue doing well in my studies so that I can do awesome things in this industry." --Kenechi Agbim

"This program went above and beyond my expectations. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for what grad school would be like, as well as a chance to get connected with the people from Westinghouse." --Scott Petro

Jacob AndersonJacob Andersson, Virginia Tech, and Jacqueline Wojewoda, University of Michigan
Project Adviser: Dr. Zoubeida Ounaies

Alignment of Carbon Nano Fibers in Active Fiber Composites for use in Radioactive Environments

Project Description: Active fiber composites (AFCs) are flexible materials that couple electrical and mechanical properties. They serve as alternatives to traditional piezoelectric ceramics, but offer lower piezoelectric properties in exchange for increased ductility. Due to their flexibility and durability, AFCs have applications in structural health monitoring within the nuclear industry. Our project focused on increasing the dielectric properties of AFCs and assessing their use in radioactive environments.

"The best part of the program was how it pushed me to grow in such a short period. Learning about research and the nuclear industry, as well as growing closer with the other fellows, all helped me grow as a person. I feel much more sure of my direction and my goals after completing the program." --Jacob Andersson

"The program exceeded my expectations. In addition to the research, I really enjoyed all of the activities such as rock climbing and the site visits. Some of those were new experiences for me." --Jacqueline Wojewoda

Chris DancesChris Dances, University of Utah
Project Adviser: Dr. Kostadin Ivanov

Python Graphical User Interface for NEM Core Neutronics Modeling

Project Description: Deterministic computer programs can analyze nuclear reactor cores orders of magnitude faster than most Monte Carlo computer programs. The time required to generate the inputs, and interpret the outputs are usually much longer than the time to perform the calculations for deterministic codes. The input generation and output interpretation can be stream lined through the use of a graphical user interface (GUI), and 3D visualization toolkits. This project focused on the development of a GUI for NEM, a deterministic reactor core neutronics-modeling program.

"The most valuable part for me was presenting the research to Westinghouse. Having to take complex ideas and present them to a general audience helped me in understanding how to relate the importance of research to others."

Christopher GuarracinoChristopher Guarracino, Penn State, and Benjamin Heider, Missouri School of Science and Technology
Project Adviser: Dr. Asok Ray

Life Prediction of Polycrystalline alloy structures in the crack initiation and crack propagation phases (Chris)

Project Description: This research project statistically analyzed the fatigue life of stressed components in Nuclear Steam Supply Systems (NSSS). Study of crack initiation and propagation is necessary to better understand how polycrystalline metallic alloys behave under normal operating conditions. From such study, a model of crack propagation can be developed and applied to structural components in aqueous systems. The service life of these parts can be predicted and a guideline regarding servicing and maintenance timetables developed. Based off of experimental evidence, computer codes can calculate the length of a crack given the number of cycles the part has endured. Experiments were conducted on the MTS Fatigue Testing apparatus.

"Prior to starting my research project, I was concerned about the amount of guidance that would be available from the faculty adviser/grad students. After starting, however, my concerns were replaced with confidence. Excellent communication was the key, as my advisers established a roadmap with milestones and goals. I was able to track the progress of my project and make sure that deadlines were met with quality results. My advisers were always eager to answer my question or concerns regarding the research project. They made themselves available for face-to-face discussions, emails, and even text messages."

Fractal Behavior of Polycrystalline Alloys in the Crack Initiation Phase (Ben)

Project Description: There is much variation in the length of time that materials last before cracking from fatigue. This research project tested how the surface changed as cyclic stresses were applied to an Aluminum alloy specimen. Defects in the material grew as more cycles of stress were added, and the surface roughness increased throughout the crack initiation phase. Fractal analysis found the fractal dimension, which was used to quantify the roughness and measure its increase. The fractal dimension was found to follow a trend while increasing during the crack initiation phase at higher forces, but the results at lower forces were less conclusive.

"I hadn't done any undergraduate research and this gave me a good idea of what grad school would be like and how research projects work."

Daniel NunezDaniel Nunez, University of Michigan
Project Adviser: Dr. Arthur Motta

Measurement of Hydrogen Redistribution under a Temperature Gradient in Zircaloy-4

Project Description: When subjected to a temperature gradient, hydrogen can migrate and concentrate in particular spots in the Zr alloy fuel cladding. This project worked to calculate the consequences of a steep temperature gradient on hydrogen redistribution, by assisting with modeling and helping perform validation experiments by artificially hydriding samples and studying the spatial changes in hydrogen concentration.

"[The most valuable aspect of the program was] being able to handle things by myself, and being able to have someone guiding me (advisers and grad students) as I encountered problems."

Sarah SarnockiSarah Sarnoski, University of Florida
Project Adviser: Dr. Maria Avramova

Improvements of COBRA-TF Core Thermal-Hydraulic Modeling

Project Description: The primary objective of this project was to create a postprocessor for CTF, Pennsylvania State University’s version of COBRA-TF, which allows for the automated visualization of mesh geometry and flow-field data. CTF is a thermal hydraulic sub channel code used for modeling simulations in fuel rod bundle geometries. The addition of a post-processor will reduce the time and effort associated with visualizing data from CTF by automatically producing Visualization Toolkit (VTK) files containing mesh geometry and flow-field data that can be opened in visualization software like VisIt and ParaView. The capabilities of the postprocessor will significantly increase the user friendliness of CTF.

"The research I did was very valuable to me for two reasons. The first reason is that I was able to apply ideas and skills I learned in class to a real life nuclear problem. It was encouraging to me to see that what I am currently learning in school is relevant in nuclear research. The second reason is that I discovered I truly want to be doing research in my future. This program really helped me realize I want to go to graduate school and continue doing research in the nuclear field."

Tristalee WilliamsTristalee Williams, University of Utah
Project Adviser: Dr. Maria Avramova and Dr. Kostadin Ivanov

Comparison and Benchmarking of BISON against Frapcon Cases with PWR, UO2 Fuel and Zircaloy-4 Cladding Criteria

Project Description: Recently a finite element fuel performance code was developed at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to study the effects of irradiation and high temperatures on fuel pins in the core. BISON is being used at Penn State to study the impact of hydride distribution on cladding performance in the fuel pin, but the code has not been fully validated yet. The goal of this project was to benchmark BISON with the NRC approved fuel performance code, FRAPCON, using several different types of fuel pins.

"I really enjoyed the various site visits. I learned much more about the industry than I knew before and was able to see areas where I would possibly be interested in working someday. It was really exciting to see the control room of Three Mile Island and then compare that technology with the AP1000 simulator control room. It was also really cool to see everything in action instead of just in theory or pictures."

Ben YeeBen Yee, University of California, Berkeley
Project Adviser: Dr. Igor Jovanovic

Molecular isotopic shift in laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

Project Description: Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) is a powerful method for material characterization without sample preparation, and is of considerable interest in nuclear forensics. Under appropriate conditions, LIBS can achieve not only atomic, but also isotopic selectivity. Notably, molecular emission spectra exhibit considerably greater isotopic shifts than atomic spectra. The goal of this project was to perform LIBS experiments and data analysis with carbon and natural/enriched boron carbide to demonstrate isotopic shift in their molecular emission spectra, thus assessing the attractiveness of this approach for nuclear forensics analysis when isotopic selectivity is sought.

"I learned more than I thought I would and had a lot of fun. It really helped me figure out what I want to do after my undergraduate career."