Dr. Laurent K. Béland
Something I’ve developed through the years, that I’m eager to share with students, are ways to simulate the effects of radiation, atom-by-atom, at time scales much longer than those usually associated with computer simulations […]. These are methods that I think will be very useful for students to learn and then apply to a whole bunch of problems.
A significant portion of Canada’s energy supply – 17% – is developed through nuclear fission. However, energy is not the only by product of nuclear fission: a myriad of unstable isotopes and particles are produced, which degrade the materials nuclear reactors are made from over time. Engineers are tasked with understanding this degradation, which allows them to determine the lifespan of nuclear reactors, best practices for storing spent nuclear fuel, and to develop new materials able to withstand harsh conditions.
Dr. Laurent Béland’s research is focused on these questions of radiation. He has developed methods to simulate the effects of radiation atom-by-atom at a fairly large time scale – simulations are typically able to model reactions that happen within nanoseconds, while Béland’s simulation methods can go up to seconds. Reactions taking place over an even longer period of time can be modelled as well, though it requires a higher degree of computational power. Because of this, Béland and his team work closely with the Centre for Advanced Computing – issues of “big data” exist in his work because massive amounts of atoms need to be accounted for. This adds to the lab’s multidisciplinary approach: Béland’s work draws on tools from the fields of physical chemistry, solid state physics, and software engineering.