|Akshat Rathi reports that despite opposition and safety concerns, nuclear power remains a big part of the world energy mix, providing about 10% of world electricity. And since nuclear reactors typically last 40 years, there are still hundreds of decades-old reactors around the world that must be maintained.|
Most of those reactors are made up primarily of some form of stainless steel. But steel is showing its limitations, primarily that it can weaken or become defective over time. This is an even bigger concern in newer reactors that run at higher temperatures and have more fast-moving neutrons. So scientists have been on the hunt for metal alloys that are stronger and can last longer, and researchers in Finland and the U.S. may have found a new category of such alloys that could do the job better than steel.
The scientists tested two high-entropy alloys, a new class of metals made up of several elements in equal percentages, against steel made of iron and chromium. They bombarded each metal plate with nickel and gold ions, which simulates what might happen to a metal in a nuclear reactor. In each case, the high-entropy alloy had two or three times fewer defects than steel.
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