Gallium Nitride Semiconductor A Promising Material for Nuclear Reactor Monitoring

TapTechNews July 3rd news, a recent study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy shows that gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor has a much stronger ability to withstand the radiation of nuclear reactors than traditional silicon materials and is expected to be used in electronic devices of reactor monitoring sensors.

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Due to the strong nuclear radiation in the environment, the data obtained by themonitoring sensor of the reactor currently cannot be directly processed locally by silicon electronic devices, but needs to be transmitted to a position with lower radiation through a digital cable (TapTechNews note: 1 yard = 0.9144 meters).

However,using cables as an intermediary also means bringing a large number of noise signals, which may reduce the accuracy and precision of the obtained data and then interfere with the operation of the reactor.

GaN theoretically has better radiation resistance. But scientists have previously only tested whether GaN is tolerant of ionizing radiation commonly found in the space environment, and have not tested its performance in an environment with strong neutron bombardment radiation such as a nuclear reactor.

The research team of the Oak Ridge Laboratory irradiated GaN transistors for three days in an environment of 125°C near the core of the research reactor at Ohio State University. The results showed that thecumulative radiation dose it can withstand is at least 100 times that of standard silicon devices.

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And after further testing, the research team came to the conclusion thatGaN transistors can be continuously used in the nuclear reactor environment for at least 5 years - five years is the normal maintenance cycle of the reactor.

The research also found that larger-scale GaN devices are more sensitive to heat than nuclear radiation in the nuclear reactor environment. This will become a future research topic to make more preparations for the actual use of GaN in nuclear reactor monitoring.

Dianne Ezell, a researcher at the Oak Ridge Laboratory, pointed out that better nuclear reactor monitoring means higher safety and lower operating costs:

Every day the reactor is shut down will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. If we want to make nuclear power competitive economically with other energy industries, we must keep costs low.

In addition, reducing the maintenance frequency can also reduce human safety risks. You can avoid putting people in harsh radiation environments or frequently handling radioactive substances.

Looking to the future, scientists hope to further explore whether GaN circuits support wireless transmission of data from sensors in the reactor.