Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-06-29 15:50:15
  • Article ID: 696891

Realizing a "Pipe Dream"

  • Credit: Image by Argonne National Laboratory.

    Unlike wireless signals, Argonne’s acoustic technology can readily piggyback the piping to turn corners and pass through monolithic barriers of steel and concrete.

  • Credit: Image by Shutterstock / Suwin.

    A research team at Argonne has shown that communicating acoustically through metal conduits within nuclear reactors is no pipe dream.

Transmitting signals through the concrete and steel of a nuclear power plant presents challenges even under normal conditions. But the loss of electric power at a nuclear plant following an accident would leave no way to send vital information into or out of the harsh environment of a containment building. Its concrete walls — measuring 4 feet thick to prevent radiation leakage — stand in the way.

Now, however, research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory reveals that communicating acoustically through a containment building’s metal conduits is no pipe dream. 

An outgrowth of the Manhattan Project after World War II, Argonne has a long history of nuclear technology development. The laboratory’s innovative contributions continue as it develops a new acoustic method to transmit information through barriers at nuclear facilities.

“The acoustic communication system is meant to ensure the monitoring of the nuclear facility post-accident conditions for at least 72 hours without relying on the electric grid power supply.” — Roberto Ponciroli, Argonne Nuclear Engineer

Advanced wireless radiofrequency (RF) technology is readily available in many environments. But at a nuclear power plant, the walls of the containment building effectively block radio frequency transmission.

“Communicating over pipes that penetrate the containment-building walls is the only option,” said Alexander Heifetz, principal electrical engineer in Argonne’s Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) division.

Heifetz will describe the method next November at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ International Congress and Exposition in Pittsburgh. Argonne has filed for a patent on the system, which is being developed with three years of support from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technology program. The Argonne team demonstrated its prototype system during the Digital Environment for Advanced Reactors workshop, organized by DOE and held at Argonne in June.

“The acoustic communication system is meant to ensure the monitoring of the nuclear facility post-accident conditions for at least 72 hours without relying on the electric grid power supply,” said Roberto Ponciroli, nuclear engineer in Argonne’s Plant Analysis and Control and Non-Destructive Evaluation Sensors group.

Acoustic systems could be used for routine communications at a nuclear plant where tight spaces and access limitations become factors, said Sasan Bakhtiari, a senior electrical engineer and Sensors and Instrumentation program lead within NSE.

“We are not trying to replace wireless communication with acoustic communication,” he emphasized. “This is complementary to RF technology.”

Leveraging existing infrastructure is a key benefit of the proposed Argonne approach. Any major modifications to a containment building would require approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We knew that there were metal pipes everywhere in nuclear facilities,” said Richard Vilim, manager of the Plant Analysis and Control and Non-Destructive Evaluation Sensors group. “They go through barriers. They’re all over the place,” he said.

Unlike wireless signals, acoustic technology can readily piggyback the piping to turn corners and pass through monolithic barriers of steel and concrete.

The Argonne researchers have tested their technology on pipes of the same material and dimension, similarly wrapped in insulation, as those found in a nuclear plant’s chemical and volume control system. The pipes, measuring 3 inches in diameter, convey cooling water through containment-building walls.

The test pipe is 6 feet long, the distance transmissions must travel to pass through the thickness of the wall. Once inside the containment building, standard wireless RF or wired systems that carry higher bandwidth become feasible.

In the Argonne system, acoustic transducers coupled to a pipe serve as both transmitter and receiver. The transmitter transforms encoded electrical signals into mechanical pulses that propagate as elastic waves on the pipe. The receiver then converts the mechanical vibrations into an electrical signal.

During early testing, the researchers transmitted signals via lead zirconate titanate transducers, a widely used type of piezoelectric transducer that carries limited bandwidth. The team is also exploring electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) technology for further proof-of-concept testing. EMATs offer higher bandwidth than piezoelectric transducers and can introduce signals to the metal conduits without directly touching the pipes.

The use of EMATs for a communications application is innovative, Bakhtiari said. The technology was developed primarily for nondestructive evaluations, which test materials without damaging them.

Because the acoustic transducers transmit at a low bandwidth, the researchers are using an on/off keying communication scheme. So far, they have demonstrated that their method can transmit information — music, voices and elementary sensor data — at the relatively low rate of approximately 10 kilobits per second.

The team is also taking advantage of Red Pitaya field programmable gate array boards to transmit and detect weak and noisy signals. The result: The quality of voice and music sound transmitted acoustically over metallic pipes is virtually indistinguishable from the quality obtained using regular electric cables.

“You actually get a crystal clear sound. You wouldn’t know the difference,” Heifetz said. “We also demonstrated transmission of an image – the Argonne logo – across the pipe earlier this month during the DOE workshop at Argonne.”

The team is developing digital modulation schemes using a software-defined radio (SDR) environment for signal encoding on acoustic transducers for a new communication system. SDR replaces the hardware typically found in radio communication systems with computer software.

“Current efforts are directed toward development of a communication protocol to minimize the energy consumption for the information that is transmitted. This will facilitate meeting system walk-away safety requirements,” said Ponciroli.

Further experiments are planned. Possible field locations include a commercial nuclear power plant and a nuclear-related Argonne test facility that bristles with steel and pipe.

“We will try to make the field environment more challenging by adding hurdles along the way,” said Bakhtiari.

Other researchers contributing to this project include Argonne nuclear engineer Stefano Passerini; Jafar Saniie, Filmer Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology; and members of Saniie’s research group Xin Huang and Boyang Wang.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

X
X
X
  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

How a Molecular Signal Helps Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil

Scientists identify new details of how a sugar-signaling molecule helps regulate oil production in plant cells. The work could point to new ways to engineer plants to produce substantial amounts of oil for use as biofuels or in the production of other oil-based products.

Neutrons Produce First Direct 3D Maps of Water During Cell Membrane Fusion

New 3D maps of water distribution during cellular membrane fusion could lead to new treatments for diseases associated with cell fusion. Using neutron diffraction at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, scientists made the first direct observations of water in lipid bilayers modeling cell membrane fusion.

Chemists Demonstrate Sustainable Approach to Carbon Dioxide Capture From Air

Chemists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a practical, energy-efficient method of capturing carbon dioxide directly from air. If deployed at large scale and coupled to geologic storage, the technique may bolster the portfolio of responses to global climate change.

Nucleation a boon to sustainable nanomanufacturing

Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Quingun Li, a former doctoral student in her lab, are the first to measure the activation energy and kinetic factors of calcium carbonate's nucleation, both key to predicting and controlling the process.

Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Argonne scientists and their collaborators have developed a new model that merges basic electrochemical theory with theories used in different contexts, such as the study of photoelectrochemistry and semiconductor physics, to describe phenomena that occur in any electrode.

A prize-winning measurement device could aid a wide range of industries

Companies dealing with liquids ranging from wastewater to molten metals could benefit from a prize-winning device developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University.

After 150 years, a Breakthrough in Understanding the Conversion of CO2 to Electrofuels

Using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, Columbia Engineers are first to observe how CO2 is activated at the electrode-electrolyte interface; their finding shifts the catalyst design from trial-and-error paradigm to a rational approach and could lead to alternative, cheaper, and safer renewable energy storage.

Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

X-Rays Uncover a Hidden Property That Leads to Failure in a Lithium-Ion Battery Material

X-ray experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have revealed that the pathways lithium ions take through a common battery material are more complex than previously thought.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Berkeley Lab to Build an Advanced Quantum Computing Testbed

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will receive $30 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy to build and operate an Advanced Quantum Testbed (AQT) allowing researchers to explore superconducting quantum processors to advance scientific research

Cheng wins Midwest Energy News' 40 Under 40 Award

Lei Cheng, an assistant chemist in the Materials Science division at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, has received a Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40 Award.

JCESR renewed for another five years

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced its decision to renew the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne National Laboratory and focused on advancing battery science and technology.

Binghamton designated as NextFlex New York Node for flexible hybrid electronics initiative

NextFlex has designated Binghamton University to be the New York "Node" for its flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) initiative. As the NextFlex New York Node, Binghamton will design, develop and manufacture tools; process materials and products for flexible hybrid electronics; and attract, train and employ an advanced manufacturing workforce, building on the region's existing electronics manufacturing base.

First Particle Tracks Seen in Prototype for International Neutrino Experiment

The largest liquid-argon neutrino detector in the world has just recorded its first particle tracks, signaling the start of a new chapter in the story of the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). DUNE's scientific mission is dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of neutrinos, the most abundant (and most mysterious) matter particles in the universe.

Tais Gorkhover Wins LCLS Young Investigator Award for Pioneering Novel X-ray Imaging Methods

Tais Gorkhover, a principal investigator with the Stanford PULSE Institute, will receive the 2018 LCLS Young Investigator Award, granted to early-career scientists in recognition of exceptional research using the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

ORNL, United Kingdom Lab Partner on Nuclear Energy Research

The United Kingdom's National Nuclear Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have agreed to cooperate on a wide range of nuclear energy research and development efforts that leverage both organizations' unique expertise and capabilities.

Nat Fisch receives Fusion Power Associates' Distinguished Career Award

Feature describes lifetime career award for PPPL physicist and professor Nat Fisch.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Expands Focus to Include the Food-Water-Energy Interconnection

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is expanding its program to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, water and energy.

Graham George receives Lytle Award for contributions to X-ray absorption spectroscopy

Graham Neil George, professor and Canada Research Chair in X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) at the University of Saskatchewan, has been chosen to receive the 2018 Farrel W. Lytle Award for his outstanding contributions to synchrotron science at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

Seeing Between the Atoms

New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.

New Electron Glasses Sharpen Our View of Atomic-Scale Features

A new approach to atom probe tomography promises more precise and accurate measurements vital to semiconductors used in computers, lasers, detectors, and more.

Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars

Scientists can now measure 3-D structures of tiny particles with properties that hold promise for advanced sensors and diagnostics.

Small, Short-Lived Drops of Early Universe Matter

Particle flow patterns suggest even small-scale collisions create drops of early universe quark-gluon plasma.

Tuning Terahertz Beams with Nanoparticles

Scientists uncover a way to control terahertz radiation using tiny engineered particles in a magnetic field, potentially opening the doors for better medical and environmental sensors.


Spotlight

Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

"Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

The Gridlock State

California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

Argonne National Laboratory

Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

Changing How Buildings Are Made

Washington University in St. Louis

Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

California State University, Monterey Bay

Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

Argonne National Laboratory

Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

Argonne National Laboratory

Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

The Race for Young Scientific Minds

Argonne National Laboratory

Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

University of Virginia Darden School of Business

Friday February 09, 2018, 11:05 AM

Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

California State University, Channel Islands

Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

Wednesday December 20, 2017, 01:05 PM

Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Monday December 18, 2017, 01:05 PM

The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday December 18, 2017, 12:05 PM

Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

Stairway to Science

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

After-School Energy Rush

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

Binghamton University, State University of New York

Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

Argonne National Laboratory

Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility





Showing results

0-4 Of 2215