Labs & Research Groups
We boast over 20 labs, and several of our major facilities are on par with those you might find at a national laboratory.
Our research facilities stretch to the far corners of North Campus.
Below, you will find the NERS research laboratories and facilities, categorized according to their main areas of study. All of the facilities listed here are used by undergraduate and graduate students in the NERS program.
Classes involving the labs include NERS 315, NERS 425, NERS 499, NERS 515, NERS 535, NERS 575, NERS 586, NERS 990, NERS 995, and independent investigations.
Fission Systems & Radiation Transport
Experimental and Computational Multiphase Flow Laboratory (ECMF)
Prof. Annalisa Manera
The lab was established in 2013 with the purpose of advancing and understanding thermal-hydraulics and fluid-dynamics phenomena of relevance for nuclear applications. In the ECMF lab, we perform fluid-dynamic experiments using in-house advanced state-of-the-art high-resolution experimental techniques such as wire-mesh sensors and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) combined with novel refractive-index matching techniques. Experimental facilities in the lab are used to investigate the propagation of stratified fronts, mixing in plena, and turbulence-induced thermal fatigue in isolated branch lines. The highly-resolved (in time and space) experimental data are used to establish a database for the validation and further development of Computational Fluid Dynamics models.
High-Resolution TH Imaging Laboratory
Prof. Annalisa Manera
In the high-resolution TH imaging laboratory, we develop and apply measurement techniques for quantitative imaging of single-phase and multiphase flows in complex geometries and high-pressure systems. The latest developments include an in-house, high-resolution gamma tomography system, and a high-speed X-ray radiography system. Additional high-resolution instrumentation employed in the lab includes wire-mesh sensors and fiber optic probes. The high-resolution experiments are being performed two investigate two-phase flows in fuel bundles, helical coils and for post-CHF two-phase flow regimes at high pressure/temperature. Additional experiments include setups to investigate the behavior of heat pipes for micro-reactors applications and hydrogen migration in nuclear fuel cladding materials.
Nuclear Plant Simulation Laboratory (NPSL)
Prof. John Lee and Prof. Brendan Kochunas
The Nuclear Plant Simulator Laboratory was recently established with the installation of the Generic Pressurized Water Reactor Simulator. This simulator represents the entire instrumentation and control (I&C) system of a three-loop Westinghouse PWR plant with all its gauges, knobs, recorders, and control systems. The Simulator satisfies the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements for licensed reactor operator training and is being modified to represent the I&C system of the six-unit NuScale SMR plant under development. The NPSL also includes an interactive Virtual Reality (VR) model of Michigan’s Ford Nuclear Reactor.
Nuclear Reactor Analysis and Methods (NuRAM) Group
Prof. Thomas Downar and Prof. Brendan Kochunas
There are two main areas of research for the NuRAM group. First, Prof. Downar, with several students, has developed and maintained the PARCS Nodal Simulator since 1996. PARCS is the primary neutronics auditing tool use by the US Nuclear Regulator Commission for reactor licensing and evaluation. More information can be found on the PARCS page. The second area of research is centered around MPACT within the CASL program. MPACT is an advanced, full core, 3D, transport solver. Originally developed by Prof. Kochunas for PWR analysis. MPACT is developed by several students and staff between the University of Michigan and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Nuclear Reactor Design and Simulation Laboratory (NRDSL)
Prof. Won Sik Yang
NRDSL aims to develop advanced nuclear reactor and associated fuel cycle concepts and core design and fuel cycle analysis methods by integrating the advances in reactor physics, thermal-hydraulics, materials, and computing technologies.
Thermal Hydraulics Laboratory
Prof. Xiaodong Sun
The Thermal Hydraulics Laboratory carries out separate-effect and integral-effects tests in reactor thermal hydraulics to support the improvement of light water reactors (LWRs) and the development of advanced non-LWR reactors, including molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. It has established a number of high-temperature test facilities, including molten salt and helium test facilities.
University of Michigan Computational Particle Transport (UMCPT) Team
Prof. Brian Kiedrowski
We develop state-of-the-art simulation methods and software for neutral and charged particle transport for a wide range of applications including nuclear reactor analysis, shielding, criticality safety, radiation detection, and nonproliferation. Students on the team work on a wide variety of projects and are often connected with DOE national laboratories such as Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia National Laboratories.
Materials & Radiation Effects
Computational Nuclear Materials Group
Prof. Fei Gao
The focus of our research involves multi-scale computer simulations of material performance under extreme conditions, including high temperature, high pressure, and high irradiation fields. aThe major focus is to combine experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches to fundamentally understanding-solid interactions, radiation effects in ceramics and reactor materials, interfacial and nanostructure evolution of semiconductors, radiation detector materials, and development and application of multi-scale computer simulation for materials modeling. The current research consists of four thrust areas:1) materials performance and microstructural evolution of nuclear fuels, cladding materials, and structural materials in fission and fusion reactor environments, 2) multi-scale computer simulations of nanoscale defect processes, ion-solid interaction, electron-solid interaction, mechanical and electronic properties of nanostructures in ceramics and waste forms, 3) atomic-level simulations of defect properties, doping effects, thermal, mechanical and electronic properties of one-dimensional nanostructures in wide bandgap semiconductors (GaN, SiC, GaAs …), and 4) large-scale Monte Carlo method to accurately study electron-hole pair production, specifically their spatial distribution and light yield in semiconductors and scintillators.
High-Temperature Corrosion Laboratory (HTCL)
Prof. Gary Was
The High-Temperature Corrosion Laboratory (HTCL) provides the capability to conduct corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, and hydrogen embrittlement tests in high-temperature aqueous environments and, in particular, simulated light water reactor environments. The corrosion laboratory has unique facilities for conducting both high and low-temperature corrosion, stress corrosion cracking (SCC), electrochemical testing, and mechanical testing.
Irradiated Materials Testing Complex (IMTL)
Prof. Gary Was
The Irradiated Materials Testing Laboratory provides the capability to conduct high-temperature corrosion and stress corrosion cracking of neutron-irradiated materials and to characterize the fracture surfaces after failure. The laboratory consists of a high-temperature autoclave, circulating water loop, load frame, and servo motor for conducting constant extension rate tensile (CERT) and crack growth rate (CRG) tests in subcritical or supercritical water up to 600°C.
Materials Preparation Laboratory
Prof. Lu-Min Wang
The Materials Preparation Laboratory provides facilities for the preparation and characterization of materials for materials research studies. The lab houses a grinding and polishing table for metallographic sample preparation, a tube furnace for annealing and heat treating, an electropolishing and etching system, and a jet-electropolisher for making TEM disc samples.
Metastable Materials Laboratory
Prof. Michael Atzmon
In the Metastable Materials Laboratory, studies of the kinetics and thermodynamics of nanocrystalline and amorphous materials are conducted. The lab is equipped with facilities for x-ray diffraction, calorimetry, mechanical alloying, and annealing of samples. This laboratory is used in the senior laboratory course NERS 425, Applications of Radiation.
Michigan Center for Microstructure Characterization
Prof. Gary Was
(MC)2 houses state-of-the-art equipment, including aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopes, dual-beam focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopes, an x-ray photoelectron spectrometer, a tribo-indenter, an atomic force microscope, and an atom probe tomography instrument. A few of the instruments contained at the laboratory include: Tescan MIRA3 FEG SEM, Tescan RISE SEM, FEI Quanta 3D e-SEM/FIB, FEI Nova 200 Nanolab SEM/FIB, and more.
Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory
Prof. Gary Was
The Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory for Surface Modification and Analysis (MIBL) was established for the purpose of advancing our understanding of ion-solid interactions by providing up-to-date equipment with unique and extensive facilities to support research at the cutting edge of science. The lab houses a 1.7 MV tandem ion accelerator, a 400 kV ion implanter, and an ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD) system. This laboratory is used in the senior laboratory course NERS 425, Applications of Radiation.
Nuclear Oriented Materials & Examination (NOME) Group
Prof. Kevin Field
Our research focuses on three broad areas: (i) advanced manufacturing and alloy development: development of novel processing routes and compositions to obtain high-performance alloys for nuclear energy applications, (ii) radiation effects and characterization: examination of the materials changes induced through radiation using advanced characterization techniques, and (iii) emerging technologies: rapid exploration of disruptive technologies including data analytics for nuclear energy applications.
Radiation Effects and Nanomaterials Laboratory
Prof. Lu-Min Wang
The Radiation Effects and Nanomaterials Laboratory is for the preparation and analysis of materials for the study of radiation effects and nanoscience/technology. The laboratory facilities include a Regarku Miniflex x-ray diffractometer (XRD), a high-temperature furnace, a Gatan precision ion polishing (PIPS) workstation, an ultramicrotomy workstation, a carbon coater, and other standard equipment for TEM sample preparation.
Radiation Materials Science Research Group
Prof. Gary Was
Dedicated to understanding the effect of irradiation on materials with emphasis on material issues related to the nuclear power industry. Nuclear energy using water reactor systems remains a primary source for the world’s electric power generation. Environmentally induced materials problems cause a significant portion of nuclear power plant outage time and are of great economic and safety concern especially as the age of light water reactors gradually increases. There is a great driving force to understand the influence of irradiation on reactor materials and the mechanisms of materials degradation in nuclear power reactors. This is important for extending the lifetime of existing reactors and essential for the next generation of nuclear power reactors.
Plasmas & Nuclear Fusion
Center for Laboratory Astrophysics (CLA)
Prof. Carolyn Kuranz
The Center for Laboratory Astrophysics (CLA) is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Center of Excellence. We study fundamental high-energy-density plasmas relevant to astrophysical systems, the NNSA mission of science-based stockpile stewardship, and inertial confinement fusion concepts. We create these systems using high-energy laser and pulsed-power facilities and simulate them using the radiation hydrodynamics code CRASH. Our research focus is hydrodynamic instabilities, radiation hydrodynamics, and magnetized flows. In addition, we fabricate and characterize experimental targets and research novel diagnostic techniques.
Computational Plasma Science and Engineering Group
Prof. Mark J. Kushner
The Computational Plasma Science and Engineering Group investigates fundamental and applied processes in low-temperature plasmas through the development and use of computer models. The group emphasizes multi-scale models (nm to meters, ns to seconds) and plasma surface interactions using advanced computational techniques. The goal is to develop fundamentally based simulations to investigate the science which is also able to be used as computer-aided design tools by collaborators. Current emphases are on microplasmas, microelectronics processing, real-time control of plasma properties, and environmental/biomedical use of plasmas.
Gérard Mourou Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS)
Prof. Karl Krushelnick
CUOS researchers develop optical instrumentation and techniques to generate, manipulate, and detect ultrashort and ultrahigh-peak-power light pulses. They use these ultrashort pulses to study ultrafast physical phenomena in atomic, nuclear, plasma, and materials physics, in solid-state electronics, in high-energy-density physics, and in biomedicine. When amplified to even modest energies, such short pulses can achieve the highest peak powers: the HERCULES laser at CUOS holds the world record for on-target laser-focused intensity. The center has recently finished constructing ZEUS, the most powerful laser in the U.S.
High Field Science Group
Prof. Alec Thomas
The High Field Science group at the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) is a world-leading group researching the science and applications of relativistic plasma. We are engaged in a number of ongoing key research projects involving the generation of relativistic plasmas. Our experiments include table-top acceleration of high peak energy electron beams using plasma bubbles, acceleration of high-quality energetic ion beams, the generation of high brightness x-ray pulses, and laser-driven neutron sources, in addition to numerical modeling of laser-plasma interactions. We are also involved with other studies, ranging from the investigation of phenomena related to generating fusion energy using lasers, to the use of laser-plasmas to study astrophysical phenomena. In addition, we are working on the development of ultra-high power laser technology.
Plasma Science and Technology Laboratory
Prof. John Foster
The Plasma Science and Technology Laboratory’s focus is on understanding and applying plasma science to real-world problems. The lab has four major thrust areas: plasma/nuclear-derived space propulsion, environmental hazard mitigation( water treatment, surface sterilization, sanitation), and basic plasma science such as self-organization and the mysteries of the plasma liquid interface. Particular attention is paid to those applications that protect the environment and those that improve the quality of life in underdeveloped countries. Here, research focuses on using plasmas to achieve sustainability and reuse of resources here on Earth—the resulting technologies have applications in space exploration as well, supporting in situ resource utilization. The laboratory houses a number of vacuum tanks and associated power systems such as DC, rf, and microwave power sources for plasma production. Advanced laser diagnostics are also used to probe fields and particles in the plasmas under test.
Plasma, Pulsed Power, and Microwave Laboratory (PPML)
Prof. Ryan McBride, Prof. Ron Gilgenbach, Prof. Y.Y. Lau
PPML uses powerful electromagnetic pulses to generate plasmas and charged particle beams. The lab features three premier pulsed power facilities: MELBA, MAIZE, and BLUE. These machines produce momentary bursts of electrical power (hundreds of billions of watts) to study high-power electromagnetic phenomena. Areas of interest include nuclear fusion, extreme material states, and extreme radiation generation (x-rays, neutrons, and high-power microwaves). Lab research efforts include experiment, theory, and computation.
Plasma Theory Group
Prof. Scott Baalrud
The fundamental plasma theory group conducts research in basic and applied plasma physics. Current focus areas include kinetic theory, strongly coupled plasmas, warm dense matter, plasma-boundary interactions, wave-particle interactions, and magnetic reconnection.
Radiation Measurement & Imaging
Applied Nuclear Science Instrumentation Laboratory
Prof. Igor Jovanovic
The Applied Nuclear Science Instrumentation Laboratory features approximately 1000 sqft of quality space and supports the development of advanced instrumentation for a wide range of projects. Some examples of current research include the development of novel neutron and antineutrino detectors and detection methodologies for applications in nuclear security, nonproliferation, nuclear power, and fundamental scientific research.
Detection for Nuclear Nonproliferation Laboratory
Prof. Sara Pozzi
The Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences (NERS) at the University of Michigan is one of the nation’s largest, and consistently highly ranked, nuclear engineering departments. With 27 faculty, 15 research faculty, 116 undergraduate students, 115 graduate students, 21 staff, and more than 60,000 square feet of space, the NERS department has management and administrative structures in place to efficiently manage large research projects. The Department manages over 100 grants with total annual expenditures that will exceed $32M in FY2022.
The Detection for Nuclear Nonproliferation Group (DNNG) was founded in 2008 by Prof. Sara A. Pozzi at the University of Michigan. The group develops new methods for nuclear materials identification and characterization for nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear material control and accountability, and national security programs. These activities have applications in many areas including homeland security, medical imaging, and nuclear fuel cycle monitoring. The DNNG is fully committed to the education and professional development of undergraduate and graduate students. Our research has strong ties to nuclear physics and mathematics, which are always at the basis of our contributions. We collaborate with the national laboratories, industry, and other academic institutions. We have graduated 26 PhD students and our students have successfully transitioned to careers at the national laboratories, academia, and industry.
The DNNG Laboratory is focused on development of new tools and techniques for the detection and characterization of special nuclear material, such as uranium and plutonium, and narcotics. Our research has applications in the areas of nuclear safeguards, nuclear nonproliferation, and homeland security. We develop new measurement systems based on scintillation detectors for the detection of neutron and gamma-ray sources. DNNG research also focuses on characterizing the properties of new scintillation materials (e.g., efficiency, light output, anisotropic response, etc.), including readout systems to improve pulse-shape discrimination performance. The laboratory is equipped with detection systems, electronics, and fast (GHz) digitizers for pulse acquisition. In addition, DNNG has developed prototype handheld imaging systems that can detect, locate, and characterize neutron and gamma ray sources.
The layout of the LINAC laboratory in the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory (NEL) building is shown in the Figure below. This approximately 2,000 ft2 laboratory houses a Varian M9 LINAC along with associated detection systems. The Varian M9 is a commercially available LINAC that accelerates electrons up to 9 MeV onto a high-Z converter material to produce X-rays. The accelerator is contained in a room in the corner of the lab whose walls act as additional collimation for the X-ray beam. After the collimator, the approximately 15 m long beam line is used for active interrogation experiments. Additionally, the beam line is used to perform time-of-flight characterization of the photonuclear reaction products. This facility enables active interrogation experiments using a variety of targets available on campus, including depleted uranium, lead, and tungsten.
Understanding the physics of nuclear fission reactions is crucial in all areas of nuclear engineering. A better understanding of the complex emissions following nuclear fission reactions allows for the development of new systems for the detection and characterization of special nuclear material.
In the Scintillator Laboratory we melt-cast new scintillators, such as organic glass. The laboratory is equipped with fume hoods, scientific ovens, and other relevant equipment. We also develop multi-detector arrays to characterize the emissions from nuclear fission. Specifically, we have recently designed and developed a spherical array of 40 organic stilbene detectors and a custom fission chamber in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory.
Augmented reality laboratory
Augmented reality (AR) technologies using head-mounted devices allow the display of complex data to a user directly as holographic impressions. We are interested in visualizing radiation fields and radioactive sources, both in the interest of education and potential real-world source search scenarios. In the AR creator’s space we provide the testing grounds for such technologies, bringing together computer scientists and nuclear engineers to develop a new way of perceiving radiation. In the figure below we illustrate such a recent development: A user wearing the Microsoft HoloLens2 smart glasses with the user’s view displayed on the screen in the background: a radiation hot-spot is seen in one barrel but not the other.
DNNG developed the MCNPX-PoliMi code, which simulates the full statistics of neutrons and photons from fission and other interactions. Monte Carlo simulations are frequently used in the field of nuclear engineering. Simulations enable planning of new experiments and the optimization of system designs. With the continuing improvement in computation time, simulations have become an important tool for research. The University of Michigan maintains a high-performance computing cluster called Great Lakes for simulation, modeling, machine learning, and data science, on which DNNG has access to 2000 computing nodes.
Neutron Science Laboratory
Prof. Igor Jovanovic
The Neutron Science Laboratory is dedicated to advancing the fundamental understanding and applications of neutron science, particularly the development of radiation detection materials, devices, and systems. The lab space is equipped with DD and DT neutron generators, radioisotope neutron sources, and a variety of standard and advanced radiation detectors and nuclear electronics.
Nuclear Measurements Teaching Laboratory
Prof. Igor Jovanovic
The Nuclear Measurements Teaching Laboratory is used for both NERS 315 and NERS 515, to introduce the student to the devices and techniques most common in nuclear measurements. Experiments include the operation of gas-filled, solid-state, and scintillation detectors for charged particles, gamma-ray, and neutron radiations. The laboratory has three stations, each with an oscilloscope and PC equipped with a multichannel analyzer. This laboratory is used in the junior and graduate radiation measurements laboratory courses NERS 315 and NERS 515.
Position-Sensing Semiconductor Radiation Detector Laboratory
Prof. Zhong He
The Position-Sensing Semiconductor Radiation Detector Laboratory is dedicated to the development of room-temperature semiconductor radiation detectors. These instruments are being developed for applications in nuclear nonproliferation, homeland security, astrophysics, planetary sciences, medical imaging, high- energy physics experiments. This lab is home to the Orion Radiation Measurement Group.
Radiation Detection and Measurement Group
Prof. David Wehe
Exploring semiconducting radiation detector materials, integrated circuits for processing detector signals, and radiation imaging with gamma rays. The primary goal of this research group is to enhance the available options for the detection of radiation in a wide range of applications: homeland security, medical and industrial uses, and scientific research.
Radiological Health Engineering (RHE) Laboratory
Prof. Kimberlee Kearfott
The Radiological Health Engineering (RHE) Laboratory includes equipment and space for the development and testing of new instruments and systems for application to specific radiological health problems. Work is concentrated on practical systems and radiation measurement methods deployable within the immediate future. This laboratory is used in the senior laboratory course NERS 425, Applications of Radiation.
We believe that engaging in research as an undergraduate student is a very important part of the NERS experience, and many of our third- and fourth-year undergraduate students are actively involved and have co-authored papers in scientific journals.