Common ceramic potentially self-heals against radiation damage

A new computer simulation has revealed a self-healing behavior in a common ceramic that may lead to development of radiation-resistant materials for nuclear power plants and waste storage. The materials could make nuclear plants that need less maintenance and which last longer which improves the economics of power generation.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that the restless movement of oxygen atoms heals radiation-induced damage in the engineered ceramic yttria-stabilized zirconia.

Although the self-healing activity does not completely repair the material, the defects are less apt to cause problems because they are spread out. This characteristic indicates that yttria-stabilized zirconia, which is used today in such items as solid oxide fuel cells and oxygen sensors, might be suitable for nuclear applications. The scientists now are refining the simulations and applying them to other materials.

Ram Devanathan and William J. Weber. “Dynamic annealing of defects in irradiated zirconia-based ceramics,” published in the Journal of Materials Research, March 2008,

Work that could be ready in eight to ten years is using modified carbon nanotubes to directly convert radiation into electricity.

The self healing ceramic