Synthesis of Boron Carbide Reinforced Aluminum Alloys Through Mechanical Stir Casting

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Engineering


Department of Mechanical & Biomedical Engineering

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brian J. Jaques


Storing used nuclear fuel in pools is not an adequate long-term solution since capacity is limited and decreasing rapidly. Dry cask cooling storage is a growing alternative that can alleviate the use of traditional containment. A proposed novel dry cask option consists of an aluminum metal matrix with boron carbide (B4C) reinforcement for neutron shielding while aluminum provides effective thermal conductivity to cool the spent fuel. Gravity die casting of aluminum with 30 wt% B4C reinforcement is the proposed process. This work demonstrates feasibility through two types of stir casting routes to overcome the challenges of wetting B4C to aluminum. X-ray diffraction, raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and optical microscopy were used to characterize the resultant microstructure including B4C incorporation and heterogeneity. Results indicate vortex mixing in air with B4C (1-10 µm) produces large amounts of porosity and insufficient wetting. Previous methods examining non-vortex mixing using wetting agents (copper, iron, titanium, and magnesium powders) also results in minimal improvement. The use of a larger size distribution of B4C (20-60 µm) has shown significant dispersion and is expected to be able to produce the target 30 wt% borated aluminum casting.

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