Warrington, UK (January 31, 2023) – MoltexFLEX has won a groundbreaking research grant that will see the company working in partnership with a team of top researchers at the University of Manchester.
The grant will help MoltexFLEX and the university’s Nuclear Graphite Research Group (NGRG) investigate how the FLEX reactor’s molten coolant salt interacts with graphite, enabling detailed characterisation work to be undertaken.
The Henry Royce Institute of Advanced Materials (Royce) funding will be used for characterisation that will help qualify industrial-grade graphite for applications in advanced molten salt nuclear technologies. The award is part of the Industrial Collaboration Programme (ICP), a Royce initiative that seeks to boost research, development and innovation activities across the UK.
Graphite is a vital component used to control the fission process in the FLEX reactor and many other nuclear reactors. MoltexFLEX is investigating the possibility of using standard industrial-grade graphite as part of the company’s ethos of using already available, ‘off-the-shelf’ components and solutions.
The research will have far-reaching implications: using industrial-grade synthetic graphite that has high thermal and chemical resistance will deliver significant cost savings for the FLEX reactor, as well as enabling it to be rolled out across the globe even more quickly – which will be vital in winning the race to achieve net zero by 2050. With clean capacity needing to be installed at a rate of 1 GW per day if we are to hit our 2050 targets, the challenge is immense.
David Landon, CEO of MoltexFLEX, said “Graphite is a significant component of the reactor cost. The success of this research in demonstrating the viability of industrial-grade graphite will contribute to MoltexFLEX’s mission to deliver affordable nuclear power for all.”
The research will see MoltexFLEX scientists working alongside those of the University of Manchester’s NGRG. It will employ state-of-the-art facilities in the university’s irradiated materials laboratory, making use of x-ray computed tomography (XCT) and hard x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to examine the graphite and its response to molten salt exposure in minute detail.
MoltexFLEX has been working successfully in partnership with the NGRG on graphite-related topics since 2020. The NGRG team, headed by Professor Abbie Jones, has extensive expertise in graphite research and an internationally recognised reputation in this field. Leading the project for MoltexFLEX is Dr Chris Morgans, who has 20 years of experience working in academia and industry as a researcher and strategic project manager in the field of materials science.
Chris Morgans, Project Manager for MoltexFLEX, said: “We believe that collaboration truly enables the path to technology maturity, and so working with Royce and the University of Manchester on this joint project to determine the effects of molten salts on the physical and mechanical properties of graphite, will not only drive the development of the FLEX reactor design forward, but forge a strong academic-industrial partnership in the process.”
The University of Manchester’s Abbie Jones, Professor of Nuclear Graphite Engineering within the Department of MACE and the Research Area Lead for Nuclear Materials with Royce, said: “The University of Manchester’s Nuclear Graphite Research Group are delighted to be entering into a collaboration with local nuclear technology company MoltexFLEX. This partnership will utilise world-leading facilities at the Henry Royce Institute to validate innovative new technologies developed by MoltexFLEX for potential use in their novel reactor design.
“The NGRG are excited to be part of this project, which will establish a strong working relationship that can move forward onto larger-scale nuclear research, enabling MoltexFLEX to develop and deliver its pioneering new technology,” she added.
The Industrial Collaboration Programme is part of a £5.6 million Royce initiative for collaborative, business-led research, development and innovation projects aimed at accelerating progress towards a sustainable future. For more details, visit: https://www.royce.ac.uk/news/royce-announces-5-6-million-for-collaborative-advanced-materials-sustainability-projects/
MoltexFLEX is a subsidiary of Moltex Energy Limited, with its headquarters in Warrington, UK. It is developing the FLEX reactor – an advanced nuclear reactor which delivers clean, low-cost and reliable energy that complements renewables such as wind and solar. MoltexFLEX plans to have its first reactor operational by 2029. For more information, visit www.moltexflex.com.
About the Henry Royce Institute
The Henry Royce Institute (‘Royce’) is the UK’s national institute for advanced materials research and innovation. Operating from its hub at The University of Manchester, Royce is a Partnership of nine leading institutions – the universities of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Liverpool, Leeds, Oxford, Sheffield, the National Nuclear Laboratory, and UKAEA.
Royce coordinates over £300 million of facilities, providing a joined-up framework that can deliver beyond the current capabilities of individual partners or research teams. It is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research & Innovation.
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