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Building a Better Reactor

Engineering grad student Gabriel Merit de Bellefon hopes to design better nuclear reactors.

Nuclear engineers play with atoms

Outside of folks looking to purchase kitchen appliances, people don’t give much thought to stainless steel. The same goes for those who work in the nuclear engineering field, even though stainless steel is an important material inside reactors.

Except for Gabriel Meric de Bellefon. His PhD research focus at UW-Madison involves studying why stainless steel loses its ductility under high reactor temperatures, which can reduce safety margins.

“I’m basically working on making a stainless steel that’s more radiation resistant because it’s more ductile,” he says. “I want to try an innovative approach that uses the latest data-driven methods to take advantage of all the experimental and operational data that is out there.”

But there aren’t many funding opportunities to support this research. “It’s slowly coming back, but there’s not much going on currently,” says Meric de Bellefon.

That’s where the UW’s Jack and Marion Goetz Engineering Fellowship in the Department of Engineering Physics comes in. “This fellowship funding is very valuable,” he says noting that the fellowship allowed him to do the necessary work to get his research funded through traditional channels like the Department of Energy.

It’s innovative thinking like Meric de Bellefon’s that will improve safety and improve lives. And it’s through the generosity of donors that such achievements are possible.

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