Researchers at the Chinese Shenzhen University and Southwestern Institute of Physics developed Nuclear Fuel- Emitted 3D printed ceramic structures emitting nuclear reactor fuel.
By utilizing lithium-loaded ceramics and DLP3 printing, the team created ‘breeding blankets’ that self-sufficiently generate tritium, a vital element of the nuclear fusion process. In the future, scientists’ cellular devices could be used as an efficient version of the pebble beds, which can be seen within the experimental reactors, helping advance technology addressing global energy shortages.
“Our structures possess high phase purity and suitable and tailorable effective ‘packing fraction’ for [tritium] breeding applications,” said the scientists in their research. “The unique advantage of flexible control in design and manufacturing of 3D printing may pave a promising way for greater possibilities to engineer novel tailored high-performance tritium breeder structures, used in nuclear fusion technology.”
Tritium Critical Nuclear Role
Although nuclear power offers enough safety and sustainability benefiting existing energy sources, the technology progression relies on R&D conducted using the experimental reactors. This research carried out a D-T reaction in which deuterium and tritium consumed as fuels.
Deuterium resources are derived through seawater, and the tritium can’t be found naturally on Earth. It has made the production pretty critical and advancing the overall nuclear reactors. To develop an alternative pebble bed using greater tailorability, Chinese scientists adopted 3D printing.
3D Printing goes Nuclear
Since there is an advancement in additive manufacturing, scientists can produce high-temperature and heat-resistant parts. For example, researchers at the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) used 3D printing technology for building a large safety valve with IAEA Class 1 resistance qualities.
Similarly, the US Department of Energy worked on 3D printing nuclear potential. They are currently working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to fabricate a reactor core. Known as the Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR), this new microreactor is built, making it more accessible for the nuclear industry to adopt modern technologies. Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory are working to optimize the nuclear fusion process developing the means to reuse 97% of related waste.