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by Blas Pedro Uberuaga

Radiation Effects in Materials
    I am currently a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. My research focuses on computer modeling of radiation effects in materials, particularly ceramics and metals. This is important for understanding how materials behave in radiation damage environments, such as those present in a nuclear reactor, or due to self-irradiation, as uranium does naturally. Irradiation essentially causes, on the atomic scale, atoms to be displaced from their preferred locations. This in turn creates damage, either atoms in places they normally wouldn't be -- called interstitials -- or normal locations that don't contain an atom any longer -- called vacancies. We study the properties of interstitials and vacancies in materials -- how they form, how they move, and how they interact -- in order to predict how the material will respond to radiation. As these interstitials and vacancies interact, they can lead to larger scale phenomena, such as swelling and cracking of the material, which can cause the material to ultimately fail. Our goal is to predict what materials are radiation tolerant so that they are better able to withstand the radiation environment they are used in, and thus make the applications which rely upon these materials safer.
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