Master’s student Mia Lenling spent two days in April 2019 hobnobbing with some of the brightest talents in the nation at the GE Research technology nucleus located in Niskayuna, New York.
The all-expense-paid trip was Lenling’s reward for being selected from a nationwide pool of applicants to GE Research’s Innovate program, which aims to bolster participation in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines among women and underrepresented minority students.
“The most valuable aspect of the experience was networking, not only with GE employees, but also with other attendees from all across the country,” says Lenling, whose advisor is Kumar Sridharan, a distinguished research professor in engineering physics and materials science and engineering.
While in upstate New York, Lenling had the opportunity to tour state-of-the-art lab spaces featuring the latest robotics and artificial intelligence, now housed in the same buildings where X-ray technology got its start.
Of particular interest to Lenling was the additive manufacturing equipment at the facility, as her research focuses on a solid-state additive manufacturing technique called cold spray, which is a coating deposition technology first commercialized in the late 1990s.
Lenling uses cold spray to fabricate free-standing nanostructured steel tubes (called “cladding”) that can potentially be used up to higher temperatures and radiation doses than the presently used cladding materials. Her approach to creating the tubes that surround the radioactive rods is much quicker and more efficient than the multi-step extrusion processes used today by other researchers that manufacture similar steel cladding tubes.
Lenling’s cladding research not only nabbed her a trip to Niskayuna, she also earned second place in the TMS Additive Manufacturing for Energy Applications poster competition in March 2019 for her poster at the annual meeting of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.
At the meeting, Lenling received great feedback on her research, including some suggestions for new techniques to improve the cladding tubes.
After Lenling graduates with her master’s degree in winter 2020, she hopes to pursue a research and development position in industry. While she’s interested in nuclear energy, Lenling is open to branching out into other fields—yet she aspires to continue working on cold spray technology.
“My research has mostly focused on nuclear, but there are many other applications where cold spray could be beneficial,” says Lenling. “Cold spray is great for wear-resistant coatings, or any application where people encounter problems with parts and need a solution to last longer.”
Author: Sam Million-Weaver