Scientists from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University (CIIRC CVUT) and the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences (FZU AV CR) said they had obtained a U.S. patent for a polycrystalline-diamond coating that is intended to reduce corrosion – and by doing so, extend the life – of fuel rods in nuclear power plants during standard and emergency circumstances, such as a nuclear accident.
The research teams won a European Union patent for the same process in April 2020. The U.S. patent, the researchers said this week, would gain them access to all 94 of the nuclear reactors in the United States.
Professor Irena Kratochvilova of the Institute of Physics explained: “A very thin layer of diamond nanocrystals significantly worsens the conditions for corrosion of the zirconium substrate in a nuclear reactor, even by tens of percent. The anti-corrosion effect of a polycrystalline diamond coating is very specific; in addition to limiting the direct contact of the metal substrate with the environment, carbon penetrates from the diamond layer into the substrate with increasing temperature and changes to its physical and chemical properties. This reduces the probability of zirconium corrosion and water penetration.”
While researchers pointed to the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan as “inspiration” for the research and said the patent was supported by additional research and extensive tests provided by Westinghouse within the TA CR project. The teams applied for the U.S. patent in 2016. The U.S. Patent Office granted the patent in February.
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