22.14 | Spring 2015 | Graduate

Materials in Nuclear Engineering


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours  /  session

Course Overview

In this course, we will lay the foundation for understanding how materials behave in nuclear systems. In particular, we will build on a solid base of nuclear material fundamentals in order to understand radiation damage and effects in fuels and structural materials. This course consists of a series of directed readings, lectures on video, problem sets, short research projects, and class discussions with worked examples. We will start with an overview of nuclear materials, where they are found in nuclear systems, and how they fail. We will then develop the formalism in crystallography as a common language for materials scientists everywhere. This will be followed by the development of phase diagrams from thermodynamics, which predict how binary alloy systems evolve towards equilibrium. Then effects of stress, defects, and kinetics will be introduced. These will all be tied together when developing theories about how radiation, particularly neutrons and heavy charged particles, interact with solid matter to produce defects and evolve microstructure. A few applications of radiation effects will then be treated with this newfound framework, including the change of material properties under irradiation, void swelling, embrittlement, loss of ductility, and the simulation of in-reactor irradiation (neutrons) with heavy ions.

This course is designed to accomplish two main goals:

  1. Provide enough background in nuclear materials science for all nuclear engineers to understand the effects and concerns of material properties and change on nuclear systems, and
  2. Provide a solid background for an advanced, full-term course on radiation damage and effects in materials.

Course Assignments

Problem Sets

This class will have up to four problem sets. Late assignments will lose one letter grade (10 points) for each calendar day past the due date.

Oral Exams

One problem set will be given as a 15 minute oral exam, to be scheduled with the instructor. These oral exams are designed to provide realistic preparatory situations for the qualifying exams, to alleviate some of the time taken during problem sets, and to allow a different method of knowledge verification.

Students will also have the option to substitute one additional problem set for a 15 minute oral exam. These must be scheduled to occur before the due date of the equivalent problem set.


This course will have a three-hour, closed book final exam. Students may bring one double sided sheet of 8.5" x 11" (letter sized) paper, with anything written on both sides as an exam aid.


This course has two types of graded assignments: Problem sets (totaling 40%) and a final exam (40%). In addition, class participation counts for 20% of your final grade. This 20% class participation will be generously given, it is designed to get each and every one of you to talk and try worked problems during class. The final grade breakdown for the course is as follows:

In-Class Participation 20% Subjective, generous
Problem Sets (3–4) 10% each Absolute scale, 0–100
Oral Exams (1–2) 10% each Absolute scale, 0–100
Final Exam 40% Absolute scale, 0–100

Class Schedule

1 Overview Survey of Material Selection in Nuclear Systems n/a
2 The Language of Materials Science Symmetry, Miller Indices n/a
3 Crystal Structures, Bravais Lattices, Space Groups Problem Set 1
4 Thermodynamics Phase Diagrams, Phase Transformations Problem Set 2
5 Free Energy Origins of Phase Diagrams n/a
6 Material Deformation and Failure Free Energy (cont.), Point Defects n/a
7 Dislocations, 2D & 3D Defects Problem Set 3
8 Stress, Strain, Plasticity, Creep, Fracture, Failure n/a
9 Radiation Damage and Effects Stopping Power, Radiation Damage, DPA n/a
10 Displacement Rates, Radiation Point Defect Kinetics Oral Exam
11 Radiation Effects in Materials, Fuels n/a
12 Recap Nuclear Material Choices in Systems Problem Set 4

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Problem Sets with Solutions
Written Assignments with Examples