Open Positions

Our UROPs are all NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED unless stated otherwise!!!

Developing Spectral Control of Indium-Tin-Oxide for Boiling Studies

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno

UROP Description: Indium-Tin-Oxide (ITO) is a wildly popular material in several industries because of its high conductivity and visible transparency. ITO is used in many commercial products including LCD displays, solar panels and touch panels. ITO is also used as an optical coating because of its infrared (IR) reflection, high stability and minimal surface roughness.


The Reactor Thermal Hydraulics group in Course 22 uses ITO for infrared thermography, a technique where the temperature of a boiling surface can be measured with great accuracy using a high-speed infrared camera. This UROP project will focus on the development of a highly specialized ITO coating for a new technique currently under development. The work will be predominantly experimental and the student will learn how to use several pieces of equipment for depositing and analyzing the ITO. Further work, depending upon the success of the project, may include using the newly developed ITO to study boiling heat transfer.


Biosphere and Receptor Modeling for Deep Borehole Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel

Contact: Ethan Bates

UROP Description: With the shelving of the Yucca mountain shallow mined repository project, the United States government is back to evaluating a wide range of geologic disposal concepts. One of the most technologically advanced, robust, and promising concepts is deep borehole disposal, which has received attention at MIT for over 20 years. Deep borehole disposal requires drilling 3-5 km into basement rock (crystalline) and emplacing nuclear waste canisters far beneath active water flows and aquifers. We are currently developing the next iteration of MIT’s reference design for a deep borehole repository. The current effort includes a detailed performance assessment model, which will allow for sensitivity to be understood and design optimization.

Performance evaluation of any geologic repository is highly dependent on the biosphere and human activity assumptions that are used to convert radionuclide leakage into absorbed dose measures. However, there are no current dose regulations or standards for any U.S. repository other than Yucca Mountain. Thus, new regulations will have to be developed, but for the purposes of current scoping calculations and design, it is important to have baseline model for calculating absorbed doses.


Applications of Ultra-Rapid Quenching to Metal Forming and Flash Freezing of Food

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno

UROP Description: Quenching refers to the rapid cooling of a very hot solid object by exposure to a much cooler liquid. Quenching phenomena occur in nature and industry. For example, when molten lava is spewed from an undersea volcanic eruption, it is quenched by the surrounding water. Humans have been relying on quenching in the making of metal objects for centuries. It is well known that steels can be hardened by heating and subsequent rapid cooling, a process that is done by immersion in water (hard quench) or oils (slow quench). Flash freezing of food can be done by quenching it in liquid carbon dioxide (dry ice). Quenching also plays an important role in mitigating the consequences of loss-of-coolant accidents in nuclear reactors.

We have developed new nano-engineered surface coatings that allow for order-of-magnitude acceleration of the quenching process. In this UROP project, we will explore the potential merits and feasibility of such ultra-rapid quenching coatings to applications such as metal forming and food flash-freezing. The work will be mostly analytical, with potential for some experimental work down the road, depending on outcome of initial assessments.


Low Cost Digital Medical X-Ray Imaging for Developing Countries

Contact: Dr. Richard Lanza

UROP Description: A recent World Health Organization report estimates that two-thirds of the world's population has no access to medical x-ray services. When it is available, both the quality and safety of the procedures may be questionable or even dangerous, both to the patient, the health care worker and the public. In general, such conditions are most prominent in low-income countries with insufficient infrastructure, an unstable political environment and a considerable burden of disease.

We are working with colleagues at Mass General Hospital on an approach to making an inexpensive digital x-ray imaging system based on the use of off the shelf consumer digital cameras coupled with x-ray imaging screens and laptops.  A combination of laptops and cell phones could be used to transmit data to medical centers.  Modern “prosumer”  DSLRs such as Canon and Nikon combine high spatial resolution with low noise and thus can form the basis for potential systems.  Other approaches may involve arrays of large numbers of small cheap imagers, but this will be determined by tradeoffs in cost and efficiency.  This is a chance to learn about digital x-ray imaging and also designing systems which are appropriate for use in developing countries.  Work could include development of software as well as testing of hardware ideas.


The Value of Nuclear Hot Air

Contact: Dr. Charles Forsberg

UROP Description: The proposed Fluoride-salt-cooled High-temperature Reactor (FHR) is coupled to a Nuclear air-Brayton Combined Cycle (NACC) power system. As a consequence hot air exiting the power system does not contain combustion products when natural gas is used to produce hot air—steam and carbon dioxide. Hot air could be supplied from near 700°C to ~100°C (stack exhaust temperature). The UROP goal is to identify and quantify (size, required temperatures, impacts on greenhouse gas emissions) the markets for hot air without combustion products. Two examples can provide an understanding of the questions that the UROP is to answer. Biomass for fuel and delayed biofuels production must be dried to avoid rotting before storage while waiting to be processed. Dry hot air (versus air heated with natural gas) is more efficient in drying biomass and may be done at a lower temperature that avoids destroying some of the energy value of the biofuels. What is the extra value? Cement is made by heating calcium carbonate with very hot air (1500°C) to decompose it into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide. About 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are from cement plants. Its an equilibrium reaction (CaCO3 ↔ CaO+CO2). Would the use of hot air without high concentrations of carbon dioxide allow cement production at lower temperatures by shifting the chemical equilibrium? How much could one reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from cement kilns if nuclear preheating of air to reduce use of natural gas?


Design Scheme for Refueling a Floating Nuclear Power Plant

Contact: Prof. Michael Golay

UROP Description: The work concerns designing a method for removing used nuclear reactor fuel rod bundles from the reactor vessel, while maintaining cooling and shielding of the plant personnel from radiation from the fuel bundle.  We shall use knowledge about how refueling is done on land-based plants, but must be original about how to do this in the confined space of a floating plant, and also making use of the sea for ultimate cooling of the fuel.  Knowledge of prior practices or of nuclear phenomena is not needed for this work.  In this project you would be joining a team of three professors and four students.  Please contact Prof. Michael Golay here for more information, most likely via a telephone call or meeting.


Bayesian calibration of nuclear reactor safety analysis codes

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno

UROP Description: We are interested in using Bayesian inference to calibrate the various uncertain parameters in nuclear reactor safety codes.  Doing so reduces the uncertainty in a prediction because data and theory are combined in a statistically rigorous manner.  But, these codes are very complex and potentially very computationally expensive.  Thus, in order to use Bayesian inference techniques we need to create very fast approximations that emulate their behavior.   Machine Learning algorithms are used to build these emulators, but currently they are completely setup in Matlab.  An undergraduate student is wanted to help transition these algorithms from Matlab to R and potentially Python.  The student would gain experience with using Machine Learning pattern recognition algorithms to analyze large and complex data sets.

Prerequisites: Basic proficiency in Matlab is suggested, R or Python experience would be ideal.