From users of the NNUF access scheme
The NNUF access scheme allowed us to extend our research far beyond our local abilities and facilities at Bangor University and to engage fruitfully with experts. The access scheme allowed an acceleration in fuel technology with the NNL, working on next generation systems for high temperature gas reactors and space reactors, and sensor technology with the Hot Robotics Facility at the University of Bristol. Both fuels and sensors are playing a key role in the nuclear power systems of the future, and by enabling this research, the UK has benefited by remaining at the cutting edge of this fast-paced sector. The access was swift and efficient, and communication of results was handled appropriately. The conversations sparked as a result of the access are exciting, and will lead to far more work going through these fine facilities in the near future, working with the expert scientists.
Dr Phylis Makurunje, Post-Doctoral Research Officer, and Prof Simon Middleburgh, Reader in Nuclear Materials, Bangor University (NNUF users throughout 2022. Experiment titles: “Assessing the grain boundary structure in Cr-doped UO2 Accident Tolerant Fuel” and “Robotic mapping of neutron flux distribution”)
At Liverpool we do not have the capability to work with radioactive materials. Hence, having access to facilities like HADES, DCF and now FaRMS that have dedicated and experienced support staff allows us to plan complex research on nuclear materials. In addition, the facilities were used by PhD students that are not linked with standard PhD schemes like the CDTs - allocating funds to perform these experiments is another great way of supporting the training of these students. We have performed irradiation experiments at the DCF on glass-ceramics to study radiation effects in nuclear waste, and fabricated mixed oxides of UO2 at the HADES facility to understand phase stability of spent fuel. The application process was very efficient - we had excellent support in the preparation and submission process. Thanks to the support staff at these facilities, there were excellent discussions in planning, and timely execution of the experiments. Overall, the NNUF facilities are an excellent set of tools that are vital for nuclear materials research, and the support provided makes the scheme very accessible.
Dr Maulik Patel, Reader in Nuclear Materials, University of Liverpool (NNUF user October 2021 onwards. Experiment titles: “Radiation effects in a glass-ceramic composite (borosilicate glass- Y2Ti2O7)”, “Synthesis and characterisation of Nd2O3:UO2 mixed oxides” and “Synthesis and characterisation of UN and ZrN thin films”).
We were very privileged to access the UTGARD facilities at Lancaster University through call 6 of the NNUF user access scheme. This allowed us to perform novel processing research using active materials, relevant to the wider nuclear materials community, that would otherwise not have been possible. The expertise and advice from the research staff were invaluable during the experiment, and we were made to feel very welcome using the facilities. We are grateful for funding through NNUF as this has supported a valuable collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Lancaster University, producing high quality data that will feed into several publications.
Dr Lewis Blackburn, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of Sheffield (UTGARD user March 2022, experiment title: “Fabrication of U/Th-doped titanate/zirconate wasteform materials by reactive spark plasma sintering”)
The instrument scientists at the UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility (MRF) were very supportive and coordinated effectively with us. We are very grateful for the professional and high quality support provided by the MRF; our experiments were completed as planned. The results are very valuable and will be used by our PhD student in their thesis and for research publications.
We found the NNUF facility access scheme extremely useful - it provided valuable opportunities for PhDs and PDRAs to use equipment/services that are not available otherwise. In particular, the quick turnaround enabled the speedy collection of experimental data and this is very impressive.
We are very impressed by this NNUF user access scheme. My group is a frequent user of many national/international nuclear facilities; the experience we had with the MRF via NNUF was absolutely impressive. The support we received, both administration and technical, was truly world-class! We only hope that this scheme can exist for longer to enable much more brilliant research. We believe this will make a massive difference to nuclear research in the UK.
Dr Dong Liu, Senior Lecturer, School of Physics, University of Bristol (MRF user December 2020 – February 2021, experiment title: “Investigation of proton-irradiation induced damage in graphite composites").
I was made very welcome at the RADioactive waste management and Environmental Remediation (RADER) facility in Manchester with full access, not just to the facilities I needed, but importantly to help and advice from expert technical and research staff. The NNUF access scheme is quick and easy to use, encouraging researchers to think ‘outside the lab’ and expand the scope of their research.
Results obtained at RADER not only provided high quality data for publication, but also inspired the possibility of future collaborative work.
Dr Clare Thorpe, David Clarke/EPSRC Fellow, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield (RADER user October 2021 – May 2022, experiment title “Exploring the interactions of borosilicate glass with subsurface microbiology”).
We are grateful for having been given access to NNL's Hot Robotics Facility at Workington, which allowed us to develop a proof-of-concept natural language understanding system based on the Kinova Gen3 robotic manipulator which was made available to us. The support given by the NNUF team – from system configuration/troubleshooting to expert advice – has been invaluable and has enabled us to complete our experiment successfully. The results of the experiment have opened new possible avenues for our research, e.g., the development of natural language interfaces to robots used in nuclear environments. We highly recommend the NNUF access scheme to any researcher who is looking for no-fuss access to state-of-the-art, specialist robotics equipment – it definitely allows one to lay the groundwork for large research grant applications and projects.
Shayaan Sindhoo, Viktor Schlegel and Riza Batista-Navarro (University of Manchester) (users of NNL's Hot Robotics Facility, 2021 - 2022, experiment title: “Enabling Robots to Understand Natural-language Instructions for Object Manipulation”).
Working with the NNUF EXACT Facility at the University of Southampton has been a great experience from start to finish. The team have extensive expertise in working with radioactive materials and a comprehensive suite of analytical equipment at their disposal. As this was very much a research project, we were able to work with the EXACT scientists to tune the various experiments to obtain the best/most applicable results possible – rather than following a strict plan which would not have suited this work. I would thoroughly recommend the EXACT facility to other users and will definitely look to submit other User-Access applications in the future.
Dr Peter Martin, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, School of Physics, University of Bristol (user of the NNUF EXACT Facility, 2021 - 2022, experiment title: “Evaluating the radionuclide composition, distribution and speciation within Chernobyl Red Forest environmental material to better underpin mobility and fire release dynamics”).
The access provided by the team at the UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility (MRF) was outstanding. I am very thankful for the results we obtained, as well as for the new field of expertise which I acquired.
The NNUF access scheme is an excellent scheme allowing for unique methods of sample preparation and analysis to be available to any academic researcher in the country. I wish this scheme had been available during my PhD several years ago!
Dr Iuliia Ipatova, Research Fellow in Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham; Honorary Research Fellow, Bangor University (MRF user November 2020 – January 2021, experiment title: “Role of alloying on the phase stability and radiation-induced defect population in proton irradiated CrCoFeNi high-entropy alloys”).