Research on glass

WWU professor’s research featured on cover of JACerS

Natalie Smith-Gray’s graduate research on the microstructural analysis of a research-scale melter will be featured on the cover of the December 2022 issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society (JACerS). Smith-Gray, WWU professor of engineering and computer science, completed the year-long research project while attending graduate school at Washington State University. 

JACerS focuses on articles based on ceramics, including microstructural research of ceramics. Glass, a type of ceramic, was the material Smith-Gray focused on during her graduate research, where she observed how glass interacted with a refractory over a time period of 11 weeks inside of a research-scale melter. Smith-Gray described the melter as being a large, brick-lined pot that contained nuclear waste. Many images showing chemical maps of the interactions in the melter were obtained by the researchers. 

The goal of Smith-Gray’s research was to take nuclear waste and turn it into glass, reducing harmful quantities of nuclear waste from the environment. Inspired by a hope to apply her research in a way that could help clean up the environment, Smith-Gray examined how nuclear waste vitrification, the process of turning nuclear waste into glass, could be a successful process for both cleaning up and protecting the future environment. 

Currently, Smith-Gray explained, there are 56 millions gallons of nuclear waste at Hanford Site alone. Vitrification has been used to dispose of nuclear waste effectively in Europe since the 1950s, and will be implemented at Hanford on a large scale beginning this year as a clean-up effort. This is exciting for Smith-Gray. “My grad research showed that the process of vitrification is a viable option for cleaning up nuclear waste sites such as Hanford,” Smith-Gray said.  

To learn more about the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, and to view Smith-Gray’s December article, visit the Journal of the American Ceramic Society website

Posted Nov. 3, 2022

Natalie Smith-Gray