When Weapons Age and Materials React

When Weapons Age and Materials React image
June 22, 2015 | Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories

PRICELESS works of art, such as the Mona Lisa, and nuclear weapons systems rarely have anything in common. But as it turns out, research into how materials in close contact in a sealed environment react with each other and change can be important for both art preservation and stockpile stewardship.

Ensuring a safe, reliable, and secure nuclear deterrent requires scientists to understand weapons performance and the technical issues related to how these systems age. To more closely examine the fundamental chemical transformations that contribute to component aging, Livermore scientists Elizabeth Glascoe, Yunwei Sun, and Stephen Harley have developed a reactive transport model for assessing the compatibility and chemical kinetics of materials inside nuclear weapons systems.

Reactive transport codes are typically used to model chemical reactions and fluid transport through a medium. “Reactive transport is important in any application where materials in contact with one another react and change over time,” says Glascoe. For stockpile stewardship applications, the codes need to model gas sorption as opposed to fluid transport. “In aging weapons assemblies, the chemical compatibility of the materials is an integrated process of outgassing, sorption, mass transport, and chemical reaction kinetics,” says Glascoe.