Rao’s Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Anil Patnaik, explained that Rao developed a novel method to rapidly measure trace elements in plutonium alloys by using machine learning to enhance the measurement precision of a portable laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy device.
“This research is critically important to increasing the rate of plutonium component production in order to ensure the necessary capacity of U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure in the future,” said Patnaik.
A press release from the award administrators states that to be successful and retain its leadership role in nuclear technologies, the United States must foster creativity and breakthrough achievements to develop tomorrow’s nuclear technologies. The Department of Energy has long recognized that university students are an important source of breakthrough solutions, and a key component in meeting its long-term goals. The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program was developed for this purpose.
“I am grateful to my dedicated doctoral committee members who have supported my research endeavors and helped me push my publications out into the field. I am also thankful for the support of my department, as well as the efforts of my collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory who made this project possible,” said Rao.