Nuclear engineering student presents research at Nuclear Energy Agency workshop

October 10, 2023 - by Kim Delker

photo: Lauren Bailey

Lauren Bailey, a senior in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UNM, was selected to present a poster at the inaugural 2023 Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Global Forum Rising Stars Workshop held in September at MIT.

This workshop brought together 40 female rising stars in nuclear technology and engineering from around the world to talk about their research work and experiences. The workshop was created to provide equal opportunities for women in the nuclear science and engineering.

Bailey was one of only three undergraduates selected to participate at the workshop, as most of the attendees were graduate level or early career professionals, and the only undergraduate from a U.S university.

She presented a poster titled “Alkali Metal Thermal-to-Electric Conversion (AMTEC): Promising Technology for Space Nuclear Power and Terrestrial Microreactors.” This presented work has been developed with the help of her advisor, Mohamed S. El-Genk, Distinguished and Regents’ Professor and founding director of the UNM Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies.

Bailey said the Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies (ISNPS) has played a key role in the research and development of AMTEC technology, which she described as “based on the principles of electrochemistry using alkali metals working fluids potentially operates at the highest fraction of Carnot efficiency of any present dynamic and static energy conversion options.”

“It is a very promising technology for future development and deployment of space planetary nuclear power systems and terrestrial small modular and micro reactor power systems,” she said.

Bailey said that small 6-9 We AMTEC units have been analyzed and evaluated by the UNM-ISNPS, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a small startup in Michigan for the Department of Energy to use in radioisotope power systems to reduce the mass of the Pu-238 heat source. Designs of larger 6-8 kWe and 1.0 MWe AMTEC units have been developed and analyzed at the UNM-ISNPS for use in space nuclear power systems, as well as terrestrial microreactors, respectively.