Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rutgers Physicists Tackle Plutonium Complexities

Date:
April 16, 2001
Source:
Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey
Summary:
Three physicists, members of Rutgers' Center for Materials Theory in the department of physics and astronomy, have devised the first reliable method to predict the physical properties of plutonium. This development is important for the long-term storage of plutonium, an issue of worldwide concern. As stockpiles of plutonium-based nuclear weapons age, their reliability and safety come into question.

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Three physicists, members of Rutgers' Center for Materials Theory in the department of physics and astronomy, have devised the first reliable method to predict the physical properties of plutonium. This development is important for the long-term storage of plutonium, an issue of worldwide concern. As stockpiles of plutonium-based nuclear weapons age, their reliability and safety come into question.

Related Articles


In a paper appearing in the April 11 issue of the journal Nature, Rutgers' Sergej Y. Savrasov, a postdoctoral associate; Gabriel Kotliar, professor of physics; and Elihu Abrahams, director of the Center for Materials Theory, present a novel electronic structure method for predicting stability changes in plutonium, potentially a landmark achievement in solid-state physics.

Plutonium is regarded even by scientists as a complex and mysterious element, rarely occurring in nature, and made artificially for the first time in 1940. "Just as water has phases – liquid, solid and gaseous – so does plutonium," explained Kotliar. "In plutonium, there are many more solid phases, ranging from a dense and unstable alpha phase to a much more extended and stable delta phase. The potential decomposition into the unstable phase over time is a matter of concern in old, stored nuclear warheads, where this could ultimately result in changes in the mass that could lead to a chain reaction.

"While the search for answers about plutonium phases generally has been through experimental methods, we employed analytical and computer calculations to predict changes in the structure of the solid states of plutonium," said Kotliar. "We felt a strong need for theoretical methods that are accurate. This element is far too toxic for extensive experimental procedures in the laboratory, and the use of theoretical methods is mandatory if we are to deal with problems over long time scales. Experimental methods do not work for predicting changes 100 years into the future."

In developing its new method, the team employed Rutgers' High-Performance Computing Cluster, a computational grid comprising more than 80 computer processors configured as a distributed resource, and a Department of Energy supercomputer. The researchers can now predict volume and stability changes in plutonium while gaining insights into where and when the transition between the alpha and delta phases occurs and under what conditions.

"We are dealing with an extremely delicate balance between the two phases, and which one wins and when this happens is information that is necessary to assure the safe storage of this important material," added Kotliar.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey. "Rutgers Physicists Tackle Plutonium Complexities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010412081719.htm>.
Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey. (2001, April 16). Rutgers Physicists Tackle Plutonium Complexities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010412081719.htm
Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey. "Rutgers Physicists Tackle Plutonium Complexities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010412081719.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins