In the process of redesigning centrifugal contactors, our team of engineers and scientists found untapped potential in low-cost, off-the-shelf 3D printers. Using new automated approaches, we found we can rapidly and cost-effectively print important components – such as the contactors that separate unwanted “light” materials (such as lanthanides) from wanted “heavy” materials (such as actinides) contained in used nuclear fuel – from acrylic or other plastics instead of from steel. We can accomplish in an hour what used to take weeks; if a part breaks or corrodes during isolation of a desired material, we can replace the part quickly and easily. This ability has significant implications for our mission to safely and expeditiously reduce and reprocess the nation’s used nuclear fuel. It also enables us to recycle high-value materials, such as molybdenum-100 that is used for domestic production of medical radioisotopes, quickly and effectively.
Our 3D printing goals of
- Expanding the catalogue of 3D-printable polymers
- Enabling the printing of high-performance ceramics, and
- Introducing low-cost revolutionary approaches to metal additive manufacturing
offer pioneering solutions to chemical process development.