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.

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 21, 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 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Gulfstream G500, G600 Unveiling

Flying (Oct. 20, 2014) Watch Gulfstream's public launch of the G500 and G600 at their headquarters in Savannah, Ga., along with a surprise unveiling of the G500, which taxied up under its own power. Video provided by Flying
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
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