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Dr. Lin Shao and Dr. Pavel Tsvetkov
Dr. Lin Shao and Dr. Pavel Tsvetkov lead the Texas A&M team for the Consortium for Enabling Technologies and Innovation. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering
Texas A&M University is a member of the Consortium for Enabling Technologies and Innovation (ETI) that was given a five-year, $25-million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) focusing on enabling technologies for nuclear security applications.

The consortium, led by the Georgia Institute of Technology under the direction of Dr. Anna Erickson, is composed of 14 universities and 12 national laboratories. The overarching goal is to create a research and education environment to support cross-cutting technologies across three thrust areas: data science and autonomous solutions, advanced manufacturing for nonproliferation, and novel instrumentation and sensors.

The umbrella of computer and engineering science research, specifically in the form of machine learning and high-performance computing, supports and enhances advanced manufacturing and nuclear detection technologies.

Texas A&M is an active team member in the consortium and is represented by Drs. Pavel Tsvetkov and Lin Shao from the Department of Nuclear Engineering. Tsvetkov, associate professor, serves as the principal investigator and lead for the Texas A&M team. He focuses on anomaly detection and surveillance using cube satellites as data-gathering platforms. If equipped with able sensors, such as hyperspectral sensors, cube satellites are able to serve as a cost-effective monitoring solution to detect man-made and natural anomalies and reach any point on the globe on demand. This is of paramount importance for safety and security applications. To make the approach work, robust smart data science and engineering approaches are being developed to support collected data analysis and prognostics.

Shao is a professor and director of the Accelerator Laboratory at Texas A&M. His research focuses on the materials science side of additively manufactured alloys. The study will establish a correlation between 3D printing parameters, microstructural changes, mechanical properties and radiation responses of alloys if used in a harsh environment. The project uses the characterized behavior of material as fingerprints to trace back processing details within advanced manufacturing streams. Texas A&M is unique in its strong capability of irradiation testing using the accelerator laboratory facility and well-integrated materials characterization using multiple on-campus user facilities.

The consortium supports several master’s and doctoral students and engages a number of undergraduate students in research in the nuclear engineering department. Texas A&M is working on engaging collaborations with NanoRacks LLC in Houston as well as Sandia National Laboratory with developments to expand and engage Brookhaven National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

In addition to his research role, Tsvetkov serves as an academic director coordinating academic programs for the consortium. He is helping to organize annual summer schools and conduct online courses focusing on fundamentals.

In 2020, the consortium held two virtual summer schools focusing on data science and engineering. In 2021, a course on novel sensors for fuel cycle applications was offered. This year, the third summer school is planned to be in person and will focus on advanced manufacturing.

The consortium has a virtual course focusing on fundamentals in nuclear security and nonproliferation – ETI 101. The course consists of five modules: Nuclear Science of Radiation Interactions Nuclear, Engineering of Reactors and Systems, Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Management, Overview of Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation, and Nexus of Technology and Policy. ETI 101 is offered every spring semester; its inaugural offering was in spring 2021. The next course is currently scheduled for Jan. 11.

Dr. Sunil Chirayath, associate professor in the department, and Dr. Robert Brigantic from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory helped organize and deliver the fourth course module focusing on nuclear security and nonproliferation. This module featured national laboratory and university lecturers. One of the notable contributors was Dr. Angela Lousteau from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a former student of the department.

The core of the research expenditures from ETI is directed at student education and support to grow the next generation of nonproliferation scientists with strong connections to national laboratories. Through the project, Texas A&M has developed multiple collaborations with NNSA laboratories. Students are offered multiple internship opportunities to expand training and research activities.

Along with Georgia Tech and Texas A&M, the consortium includes the University of Wisconsin and The Ohio State University as leads of the thrust areas, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of Hawaii, Colorado School of Mines, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington State University, Duke University, Clafin University, Spelman College and The University of Texas at Austin.