The gray, barrel-shaped instrument in Olin Hall at Clemson University may look like an oversized water heater, but what happens inside is helping South Carolina play a leading role in research that ensures nuclear waste is stored safely for generations to come.
The “high-temperature melt solution calorimeter” cost $400,000 and is up and running after a year of preparation. It’s the only one on the East Coast and one of five in the country.
Several researchers are using the calorimeter to answer some the nation’s most perplexing questions about managing nuclear waste and to design new materials for energy conversion and storage, including batteries, fuel cells and thermoelectrics.
This custom-made instrument measures heat flow in various materials and is so sensitive that it can detect someone’s breath, even when it’s coming from just outside the room. Ceilings in a lab had to be raised and a platform was built to accommodate the calorimeter.
“The calorimeter is a significant instrument not only for Clemson but for the entire state,” said Rajendra Bordia, chair of the materials science and engineering department. “Its capabilities will allow us to conduct cutting-edge research that creates new knowledge and helps us develop the clean-energy solutions that will benefit generations to come.”