Radiation-Resistant Electrical Insulation Materials for Nuclear Reactors using Novel Nanocomposite Dielectrics

Student Author(s)

Eric Greve

Faculty Mentor(s)

Drs. Tolga Aytug and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Document Type


Event Date



Recently there has been renewed interest in nuclear reactor safety as commercial reactors approach 40 years of service and lifetime extensions are considered. Unfortunately, some of the current materials used as electrical cable insulators in these reactors are degrading more rapidly than anticipated. New polymer nanocomposites are of increasing interest as they can yield a material with the flexibility of a polymer, and improved thermal stability, mechanical stability and dielectric properties of the inorganic particles. We chose polyimide (PI) to investigate due to its well-known thermal and radiation properties. We prepared PI films with ceramic oxide dispersed nanoparticles. We confirmed particle dispersion by UV-Vis spectroscopy and performed dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) to determine the PI material’s activation energy (Ea) and glass transition (Tg). Certain oxide nanoparticles had large effects on Ea and Tg for the PI films. The samples were analyzed post irradiation, using DMA and electrical breakdown techniques to determine if these polyimide films could be a new viable insulation material for nuclear reactors. Improved insulation materials will decrease reactor down time, decrease nuclear waste, and increase the overall lifetime of reactors.


This research was supported by the Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program and Department of Energy – Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) - Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) Program.

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