Open UROP Positions (12)

Challenging research opportunities exist for undergraduates of all levels in Course 22, especially for freshmen, through MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Join our faculty, students, and staff on cutting-edge research projects for credit or pay, and get hands-on experience on the research that the NSE department has to offer. Our UROPs are all NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED unless stated otherwise.

You are encouraged to browse the research sections of the NSE website to learn more about the areas of research that Department faculty are engaged in. Undergraduate research opportunities may not always be listed with MIT's UROP Office. Heather Barry in the NSE Undergraduate Program Office and Prof. Matteo Bucci, NSE's UROP Coordinator, will help you find a UROP in Course 22.

Check out our Open UROP Positions to start your research career in Course 22 today!

Adaptation of Boreholes in Salt Deposits for Nuclear Fuel Disposal

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2018-04-18
UROP Description: It has become increasingly likely that Permian Basin bedded salt deposits in West Texas (east of the operational WIPP facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico) will become a strong contender for siting of the US spent nuclear fuel repository. Our goal in this project is to qualify technology in support of the use of boreholes drilled into bedded salt to accommodate spent fuel canisters. So far we have shown the possible suitability of one brand of waterproofing paint for protection of the salt while water-based cement formulations set in the course of sealing waste canisters in place. We now need to expand upon this approach in several ways:
• Show that higher temperatures near the decaying waste do not compromise paint performance. Likewise for accumulation of radiation dose (e.g. via tests in the MIT Reactor’s discharged fuel pool)
• Measurement of the small amount of water trapped in salt and its movement along temperature gradients
• Testing of other paint candidates and specific cement formulations

UROP position on the "Work of the Future" at the IPC

Contact: Dr. Elisabeth Reynolds
Posting Date: 2018-02-08
UROP Description: MIT’s Industrial Performance Center (IPC) engages in research on firms, industries and technological change in the global economy and how their emergence and transformation impact society at large. We look in particular at systems of innovation, whether within firms, industries, regions or countries (http://ipc.mit.edu). The IPC is looking to engage a UROP for the spring semester of 2018 to help with its new project on the Work of the Future. The project involves examining the impact of new digital technologies on the workplace. The research has multiple dimensions, from upstream analysis of new digital technologies, to downstream adoption of new technologies by firms and industries in particular regions, to public policy implications related to education, training and other areas.

The UROP will help with building the foundations for this project including literature reviews, data analysis on firms, industries, and technology adoption and conducting interviews with key stakeholders.

Strong writing and analytic skills are required as well as good interpersonal skills. The UROP will work 10-15 hours a week at standard UROP pay per hour and report to the Executive Director of the IPC, Dr. Elisabeth Reynolds.

Multiple UROP positions at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Contact: Jessica Coco (PSFC UROP coordinator)
Posting Date: 2018-02-03
UROP Description:

To learn more about current UROP positions at the PSFC, contact: psfc-urop@mit.edu.

A list of subjects will be published soon.

Recovery of Lithium and Cobalt from Seawater for Storage Battery Production

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2018-02-02
UROP Description: Increased usage of renewable energy resources such as solar and wind will require large scale energy storage to match these technologies to time-dependent electric power demand.
The use of lithium batteries, with cobalt-containing electrodes, is a primary approach which is synergistic with other environmental initiatives such as increased use of fission and (eventually) fusion power plants, and electric cars. This, however, requires provision of large amounts of both lithium and cobalt.
Preliminary indications are that seawater could potentially be a viable resource base, as we found out in our earlier work to recover uranium from seawater.
The proposed UROP will involve a more quantitative assessment, starting with identification of a sorber capable of extracting the subject materials from seawater, and projection of the cost of product with conventional terrestrial mining. It will also modifications of Prof. Alex Slocum’s rig designed for recovery of uranium from seawater to instead extract lithium, which is currently in great demand for storage battery applications. An approximate cost of product estimate then needs to be made to determine whether a more extensive project should be launched.

Lab tests relevant to boreholes in bedded salt for disposal of nuclear reactor spent fuel

Contact: Prof. Michael Driscoll
Posting Date: 2018-01-31
UROP Description: It has become increasingly likely that Permian Basin bedded salt will become a principal option for hosting disposal of nuclear fuel.
Previous work at MIT, since 1990, has focused on granite as the host rock. Salt, however, differs in one key aspect: it is soluble in water. This complicates our preferred approach of using cement filler in the gap between a canister and the wall of its host borehole.
The objective of this UROP is to test the efficacy of using sprayed-on waterproofing to protect halite salt samples from the water in fresh concrete slurries until the concrete sets to fix water in place. The result will also be relevant to enhanced retardation of the transport of ambient water inward from the surrounding host rock due to thermal and/or hydraulic gradients.

Deuterium Implantation in Stainless Steel

Contact: Prof. Ronald Ballinger
Posting Date: 2017-12-04

Top: Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS) Results for Crack Growth Specimen Exposed to D2O. Middle: DANTE Accelerator. Bottom: CLASS Accelerator.

UROP Description: Hydrogen embrittlement of materials is a significant degradation phenomenon. In aqueous environments, hydrogen is generated as a result of the corrosion process. It is believed that hydrogen migrates to the plastic zone that develops at the tip of cracks due to the local tensile stresses. However, hydrogen is very difficult to detect in these situations due to the small size of the plastic zone and the ubiquitous presence of hydrogen in the environment. Thus, if hydrogen is “detected” it is often not clear where the hydrogen came from. Hydrogen charging experiments can introduce hydrogen into the material but these experiments are often conducted in high pressure, high temperature gas or via electrochemical methods. Both of these methods result in very high concentrations-much higher than would exist under prototypic conditions. Thus, there have been very few, if any, experiments performed where the experimental conditions are prototypic and in environments where the actual source of hydrogen is unambiguous. However, recent experiments have been conducted in the H. H. Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory that satisfied the above two conditions: (1) experiments were conducted in high purity D2O (NOT H2O) at (2) temperatures typical of those in light water nuclear reactors - ~300 C. Deuterium was used as a surrogate for hydrogen. Under these conditions the only source of deuterium is the water environment. The top figure shows the results of the analysis. The results demonstrate that concentration ahead of the crack tip does occur and the source is the environment.
While the results of the program have demonstrated that deuterium, used as a surrogate for hydrogen, does concentrate at the crack tip and that the source is the environment, the actual magnitude of the concentration is still not known. The SIMS analysis only provides relative concentrations when compared to background concentrations. The next step in the analysis is to provide a way to convert the SIMS results to actual concentration values. In order to accomplish this “standards” need to be developed where a known concentration exists. The purpose of this project is to develop deuterium standards.
In this project deuterium atoms will be implanted in a stainless steel sample using the DANTE accelerator in the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department. The concentration and depth profile for the deuterium will be controlled by adjusting the beam current and beam energy. The middle figure shows a photo of the DANTE accelerator. Estimates for the concentrations and depth profiles will be calculated using the SRIM radiation damage computer code.
Once the deuterium has been implanted the concentration vs. depth profile will be measured using recoil analysis using the CLASS accelerator, shown in the bottom picture.
Student will learn about the radiation damage process as well as to participate in the actual implantation and subsequent analysis.
Supervisors: Prof. Ronald Ballinger and Dr. Kevin Woller

Low Cost Digital Medical Radiography Systems for the Developing World

Contact: Dr. Richard Lanza
Posting Date: 2017-09-02

Images taken with a simple scanner.

UROP Description: Digital radiography has become the de facto standard for x-ray imaging in the developed world. Unfortunately, its advantages - which include ease of image acquisition, visualization, processing, archiving and potential for teleradiology - have not come to large parts of the developing world, especially rural areas, due to cost and complexity. Infrastructure issues such as the lack of adequate roads, inconsistent or nonexistent power grids and water supplies (required for film processing), little internet access and limited numbers of physicians add to the difficulties of using this technology. Since the primary driver of cost and complexity in these systems is the digital detector, we propose to develop a low cost digital x-ray system optimized for rural and low-income communities. This project combines groups at MIT, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-B).
Our approach is based on a mixture of increasingly sophisticated but readily available mass-produced technologies such as consumer-grade digital imaging, inexpensive portable computing, and mobile phones. The technical implementation is conceptually straightforward: one or more low-cost cameras, under the control of a small laptop computer, image a fluorescent x-ray screen that converts X-ray photons into light photons. Additional optics may be interposed between the cameras and the fluorescent screen to increase the numerical aperture of the system. The images are captured digitally and then using the laptop, processed and sent to a central facility by internet or cell phone, bypassing the need for physicians on site.
Although such digital systems have indeed been proposed for years, recent developments in high-resolution Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras based on large format low-noise CMOS imagers have the potential to revolutionize this process and to produce diagnostic images comparable in quality to typical current digital images but at greatly reduced cost. Measurements performed by our group on these cameras have shown that they have the required sensitivity and low noise needed in this application. Thanks to the large mass market for the components used, our design results in a significantly lower cost than special purpose devices. We have also looked at modifications to standard flat-bed scanners as a potential alternative approach.
This project will involve a combination of optics, image processing and hands-on building and will be an active collaboration with radiologists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. The long term goal is to have a significant impact on health care in the developing world.

Contributing to the educational mission of NSE with the new edition of Nuclear Systems

Contact: Prof. Neil Todreas
Posting Date: 2017-08-04
UROP Description: The text Nuclear Systems by Todreas and Kazimi used in course 22.312 and in Nuclear Engineering departments throughout the world is being updated to a new edition- Volume 1, 3rd edition and Volume 2, 2nd edition.
For both texts updates include addition of new problems, worked examples, characteristics tables and limited descriptions of Advanced Reactors including US & International Gen III+ Concepts and SMRs, and additions of errata and better explanations of selected phenomena.
The UROP task will be to assist in the identification and expansion as necessary of such materials drawing on the contents of course 22.312 and 22.06 materials presented over the last few years as well as literature found on the web. Additionally US and international contacts identified by Professor Todreas will be contacted to supply reactor characteristics of plants they are involved in.
The UROP task will be to gather such data, confirm the existing solutions of problems and examples, draw an occasional figure, and edit existing chapter files. The work will be executed in close coordination with Professor Todreas and Dr. Massoud a former Adjunct Professor at University of Maryland, who is taking on Professor Kazimi’s former co-authorship role.
Prerequistite is completion on Course 2.005 with strong performance. Completion of Course 22.06 also with strong performance is desirable but not required.

Ultra High Resolution Inspection of Integrated Circuits

Contact: Dr. Richard Lanza
Posting Date: 2017-04-13

Imaging a set-reset latch, a functional unit within an integrated circuit
from Holler et al Nature 543, 402-406; (2017)

UROP Description: Between 2011 and 2015, the semiconductor industry saw significant advances in both the scaling of integrated circuits and 3-D integration of multiple wafers, monolithically grown stacked circuits, and non-CMOS structures. Multiple flash memory manufacturers are fabricating 16+ stacked chips for memory and logic-in-memory applications. In addition, 2.5 D circuits mounted on an interposer die have become an industry standard. High-yield manufacturing of these structures will require unique capabilities for process verification and failure analysis.
Similarly, in keeping with Moore’s Law scaling, 14 nm microprocessors have been in production since July 2014 and 7 nm circuits were demonstrated at Albany Nanotech in early 2015.1 Samsung Corporation, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and GlobalFoundries have announced plans to ship production-quality 10 nm integrated circuits in late 20162, Intel plans to ship 10 nm integrated circuits in 20173, and TSMC plans to offer 7 nm chips in 2017. Manufacturing at these technology nodes will require high-speed and high-resolution image acquisition for process verification and failure analysis. The Rapid Analysis of Various Emerging Nanoelectronics (RAVEN) program, sponsored by iARPA, is focused on developing an analysis tool capable of imaging minimum size circuit features on a silicon integrated circuit chip. MIT is working on developing a method for imaging, in 3D, the features on integrated circuits to a resolution of 10nm or better. Recently, a Swiss group at the Paul Scherer Institute has demonstrated that this is possible using a large synchrotron radiation source. The figure below shows the results of their measurement. The logic diagram, circuit and 3D image of the IC are shown below. but we are implementing it with a desktop sized instrument which requires a combination of technologies and new computational imaging algorithms. NSE is working with labs and groups at MIT (EECS, CSAIL, ME, MTL) and others (MGH, SRL and Morgan State) to achieve his. As a preliminary proof of concept, NSE is developing a 10 nm resolution x-ray imaging system based initially on using the nanometer sized beam from an SEM.
This UROP project will be hands-on with a combination of experimental work and interaction with other members of the team, the goal being to produce simple 2D planar images with resolution of 10nm. As a further challenge, one might consider that imaging a 1 cm2 chip with a resolution of 10 nm produces an image of 106 x 106 pixels per layer, with a total of 102 layers, a total of 1014 voxels! Clearly some other approaches are going to be required to succeed!

Infusion of High-Molecular-Weight Gases for Improved Neoprene Insulation for Increased Underwater Dive Persistence

Contact: Prof. Jacopo Buongiorno
Posting Date: 2017-02-12
UROP Description: We are developing a method to significantly enhance the insulating capabilities of foam neoprene by infusing high-molecular-weight gases into the material. Neoprene, the material conventionally used to make wetsuits, is a relatively good thermal insulator, but still conducts heat efficiently enough to limit the duration of cold-water dives to 30 minutes or less. We have promising initial results that show that infusing xenon into neoprene reduces its thermal conductivity by 45%, which could enable significantly longer dives even in water that is just above freezing.

We seek an undergraduate researcher to help with the design and execution of experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique in multiple settings. In addition to helping create effective demonstrations, you may also help us design a scalable method to infuse the gas into an entire wetsuit (e.g., using a pressure vessel). Finally, you will also work with us to address the challenge of limiting or stopping the “leakage” of gas from the neoprene once the gas has been infused. Accordingly, we will explore a variety of coatings together, such as metallized skins or graphene.

Optimizing Nanostructured Ceramic Coatings to Mitigate Hydrogen Embrittlement

Contact: Dr. William Bowman
Posting Date: 2017-01-11

Oxide compositions were predicted to optimize
thermodynamic properties and surface reaction characteristics
(from Youssef et al. Phys. Rev. App. 2016)

UROP Description: This project will help us design, fabricate and optimize novel ceramic coatings intended to mitigate hydrogen embrittlement of metals. Addressing this problem could have implications in areas such as nuclear reactor materials, materials for geothermal systems, and infrastructure for a hydrogen economy. You will gain practical research experience performing materials synthesis, structural and chemical characterization (e.g. X-ray diffraction, molecular absorption), and data analysis. This UROP is well suited to students interested in materials science and engineering, nuclear science and engineering, physical chemistry, and/or similar. Our aim is to understand the water dissociation reaction occurring at surfaces of solid oxides, and the molecular absorption/solubility characteristics of the reaction products in the oxide. These processes are critical to the hydrogen uptake process that leads to hydrogen embrittlement—and ultimately failure—in many metals and alloys. Based on recent theoretical simulations, the materials selected for this work are predicted to be promising coating candidates, and are considered for integration into technology currently under development.
Faculty supervisor: Prof. Bilge Yildiz
Contact: Please send your resume to William Bowman, PhD (wjbowman@mit.edu).
URL: http://web.mit.edu/yildizgroup

Variable Electricity from Base-Load Nuclear Power Plants Using Thermal Storage Technologies

Contact: Dr. Charles Forsberg
Posting Date: 2016-03-02


UROP Description: In a low-carbon world electricity will be produced by nuclear and renewable energy sources. These are high-capital-cost low-operating-cost energy producers; thus, it is required to operate them at full capacity to minimize the cost of energy. However, no combination of base-load nuclear and renewables match electricity demand. There is the need for storage. Electricity can be stored as work (batteries, pumped storage, etc.) or heat. Heat from the nuclear reactor is (1) stored at times of low electricity demand and low prices and (2) used to generate peak electricity at times of high electricity demand and high prices The cost of heat storage is a factor of ten to 100 times less per kWh. There are many heat storage technologies—some that have been deployed and many others have been proposed. We are looking for students to investigate (literature review) several proposed heat storage options including geothermal heat storage and analysis of electricity markets to determine economics.