BNL Home

Providing a fundamental understanding of molten salt bulk and interfacial chemistry underpinning molten salt nuclear reactor technology

Research Structure

Our research is organized along two interrelated thrusts. Thrust 1 is titled Molten Salt Properties and Reactivity. It seeks to understand how molecular scale interactions, structure and dynamics lead to macroscale properties. An important aspect is the interactions between molten salts and solutes such as metal ions and nanoparticles that affect thermal properties and control solubility and reactivity. The second thrust, Interfacial and Corrosion Processes in Molten Salt Environments, seeks to understand the atomic-scale structure and dynamics at interfaces and related mechanisms of interfacial and corrosion processes between molten salts and materials, including the effects of extreme environments such as radiation and high temperature.

Thrust 1: Molten Salt Properties and Reactivity

The research in this thrust involves three specific aims that focus on bulk molten salts, but the insight gained into molten salt dynamics and reactivity is synergistic with Thrust 2 since the bulk behavior will influence processes at interfaces and dissolved species generated during interfacial processes will in turn impact bulk properties and reactivity.

Aim 1: Determine the structure and dynamics of molten salt solutions across scales of length and temperature. Powerful X-ray, neutron-scattering and optical spectroscopy techniques are coupled with leading-edge computational approaches to interpret observations and validate predictions in order to assemble a dynamical model of molten salt structure.

Aim 2: Elucidate the principles that control metal ion and nanoparticle solvation in molten salts. Determine the basis of solution structure, dynamics and thermal properties around solutes. The same techniques as applied in Aim 1 are applied in the presence of important solutes including actinides.

Aim 3: Understand how radiation affects salt solution chemistry and solute speciation. Both steady state and pulse radiolysis techniques are applied toward these problems, and these experimental results are used in models to elucidate radiolysis mechanisms.

Thrust 2: Interfacial and Corrosion Processes in Molten Salt Environments

The focus of Thrust 2 is to understand how molten salts interact with and modify interfaces across length- and time-scales and under multiple extreme environments including temperature, mixed radiation fields and highly corrosive conditions. To accomplish this goal, we explore these specific aims:

Aim 1: Measure and predict the structures and dynamics of molten salts at interfaces. Elucidate how these structures determine the energy and charge transfer across the interface. Both X-ray and neutron reflectivity measurements are integrated with new modeling approaches to provide fundamental new information on surface ordering and dynamics of molten salts.

Aim 2: Kinetics of interfacial reactions leading to corrosion. Understand and predict non-equilibrium, metastable states formed during the reactions at interfaces, including those driven by radiation. Study how key salt contaminants and alloying elements perturb the structures of molten salt/solid interfaces and lead to material degradation.