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Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences

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Two NERS doctoral students, Marc Paff and Marc Ruch, and NERS alumna Elizabeth Getto have won Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research Awards from the U.S. Department of Energy. The awards recognize the important role students play in the development of new technologies and are designed to encourage creativity and innovation in next-generation solutions.

Getto, who worked in the laboratory of Professor Gary Was and earned her doctorate in 2016, took first place in the Open Competition in the Advanced Fuels category. Her research article, “Effect of Irradiation Mode on the Microstructure of Self-Ion Irradiated Ferritic-Martensitic Alloys,” was published in October 2015 in the Journal of Nuclear Materials.

Getto's work focused on radiation effects of reactor materials, more specifically how reactor structural materials respond to irradiation. Her winning research looked at the response of HT9 -- a ferritic martensitic steel being considered for next-generation fast reactor designs -- to iron ion irradiations, and she demonstrated how iron ions can be used as a surrogate for expensive reactor irradiations to test novel materials.

Getto's work provides an experimental basis for determining best practices for ion irradiation techniques. Her findings showed how taking ion irradiation beam type into account is essential for mimicking in-reactor irradiations effectively.

Today, Getto is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the United States Naval Academy. "This prestigious award has allowed me to build new connections with other students and scientists in the field," she said. "I look forward to continuing my work on radiation effects in materials."

Marc Paff, doctoral candidate and Nuclear Nonproliferation International Safeguards Graduate Fellow working with Professor Sara Pozzi, also took first place in the Open Competition in the Material Protection, Control, and Accountancy division. His article, “Organic Liquid Scintillation Detectors for On-The-Fly Neutron/Gamma Alarming and Radionuclide Identification in a Pedestrian Radiation Portal Monitor,” was published in July 2015 in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research.

Radiation portal monitors (RPMs) are used at airports, border crossings and shipping ports to screen baggage and cargo of all types for hidden nuclear and radiological material. Current RPM technology relies on Helium-3 for neutron detection, which is becoming increasingly expensive and limited in supply, explained Paff.

In addition, current RPM technology leads to a high number of "nuisance alarms," triggered by individuals who have recently undergone a nuclear medicine procedure or by naturally occurring radioactive material rather than gamma radiation from a nuclear weapon or material intended for that use.

Paff's work focuses on next-generation RPMs based on alternative neutron detectors, such as fast organic scintillators, as well as new data-processing algorithms to reduce time spent  processing nuisance alarms. He and colleagues have developed new RPM prototypes and tested them on shielded nuclear material at facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. 

"It is always fantastic and rewarding to see your work get attention from others," Paff said. "Awards are a motivator and show that your work is relevant and useful to a broader audience. Winning such a prestigious award also further focuses the spotlight on all of the other fantastic research coming out of NERS at University of Michigan."  

Marc Ruch, a doctoral student and Nuclear Nonproliferation International Safeguards Graduate Fellow also working with Professor Pozzi, took second place in the Open Competition in the Material Protection, Control, and Accountancy category for his paper, “Pulse Shape Discrimination Performance of Stilbene Coupled to Low-Noise Silicon Photomultipliers.” His article was published in September 2015 in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics.

(photo, l-r: Paff, Ruch, Getto)





Article topics: Nuclear , Alumni

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