Haifeng Zhang stands in the labMechanical Engineering Professor Haifeng Zhang is researching new and safer ways to store nuclear waste, thanks to a three-year $800,000 grant from the Department of Energy.

Nuclear waste is stored in stainless steel containers, which radiate extreme amounts of heat that can cause cracks in the container and waste to leak. Zhang’s proposal is to create a new sensor that could monitor the container’s pressure and temperature while withstanding high amounts of heat. The sensor would also be able to signal when the container may be reaching a breaking point.

"There is no existing technology that has been one-hundred percent proven to work to monitor what is happening inside the cannister," said Zhang. "With our proposal, we’re hoping to change that. What we’re doing here has never been done before."

Zhang is the principle investigator, working alongside co-principle investigators Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The project’s funding also goes toward hiring two graduate students and purchasing new equipment.