Research Will Lead to Next-Generation Nuclear Energy Systems

Ho Lun Chan (Lun) earned a scholarship and top honors in the field of corrosion science for research that will lead to next-generation nuclear energy systems. Chan is a Ph.D. candidate of materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and a member of the corrosion and electrochemistry research group led by John R. Scully, Charles Henderson Professor of materials science and engineering and co-director of the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering. Chan earned a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award to support his research. 

Chan earned the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers Henry deWitt Smith Scholarship at TMS 2022, the annual meeting and expo of The Materials, Metals & Minerals Society.

Elizabeth Holm presents scholarship award to Ho Lun Chan.

Elizabeth Holm, professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, presents the Henry deWitt Smith Scholarship to Ho Lun Chan, right, during an awards ceremony.

Chan also earned the top prize in the structural materials division graduate poster session, sharing how materials corrosion in Gen-IV molten salt nuclear reactors may be controlled.

Peter Hoseman, Ho Lun Chan and Blas Uberuaga with Lun's top poster

Ho Lun Chan (Lun) celebrates his poster award with professor Peter Hoseman, left, FUTURE center deputy director and Ernest S. Kuh Chair in Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and Blas Uberuaga, right, FUTURE center director and Los Alamos National Laboratory research scientist. Lun’s poster, Discovering the Corrosion Mechanism of Chromium in High-temperature LiF-NaF-KF Molten Salts for Gen-IV Molten Salts Reactor Applications, earned the top award among all student posters presented in the Structural Materials Division’s technical sessions.

Following on his success, Chan attended the Association for Materials Protection and Performance 2022 conference at San Antonio, Texas. He earned first prize in the Harvey Hero Prize for Applied Corrosion Technology category for research that illustrates the influence of electrochemistry on materials’ microstructure and subsequent effects on the materials’ corrosion transport properties.

  • Ho Lun Chan (Lun) with co-authors Elena Romanovskaia and John R. Scully with Lun's top poster

    Ho Lun Chan (Lun) with co-authors Elena Romanovskaia, left, post-doctoral scientist in the Scully research group, and John R. Scully (right), UVA’s Charles Henderson Professor of materials science and engineering and Chan’s dissertation advisor. Their poster is titled Discovering the Corrosion Mechanism of Chromium in High Temperature LiF-NaF-KF for Gen-IV Molten Salts Reactor Applications.

  • Ho Lun Chan with AMPP judges Saba Esmaeely and Thu Tran Addis

    UVA Ph.D. candidate Ho Lun Chan (Lun) receives his poster award joined by Saba Esmaeely, left, integrity engineer at assurance and risk management firm DNV, and Thu Tran Addis, right, corrosion engineering lead at BP energy company.

  • John Scully and Ho Lun Chan at work in Scully's lab

    John R. Scully, left, UVA’s Charles Henderson Professor of materials science and engineering, and Ph.D. candidate Ho Lun Chan (Lun) review the procedure to perform simulated reactor molten salt electrochemistry experiments.

Chan’s research contributes to a multi-institutional effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences to address the viability of next-generation reactor materials. Scully and members of his research group are teammates in the Fundamental Understanding of Transport Under Reactor Extremes (FUTURE) Energy Frontier Research Center.

Co-led by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, the center is dedicated to understanding how the extreme conditions encountered by materials in nuclear reactors – radiation damage, corrosive environments, high stresses and high temperatures – couple to affect the corrosion properties of the material. 

The team will use Chan’s findings to develop a framework to understand irradiation effect and guide the discovery of corrosion-resistant alloys, accelerating the efforts to commercialize a long lifetime, efficient, safe Gen-IV reactor.

“Experts predict that global energy demand will increase by 50% by the year 2050,” Chan said. Molten salt reactor design is a key area of R&D to meet this need.

“My research deepens our knowledge of the thermodynamics and kinetics involved in chromium’s corrosion resistance to molten fluoride salts, moving beyond observational description toward a more predictive and quantitative understanding,” Chan said.