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Thermal Technology recently shipped a 25-ton, 10,000-amp spark plasma sintering (SPS) system to Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR). The SPS model 25-10 is fitted with a glove box for handling materials in a controlled environment and will be integral to the CSNR’s study of advanced high-temperature fuel and structural materials fabrication.
“This system represents another milestone for our SPS product line,” says Matt Mede, president and CEO of Thermal Technology. “Our open component design philosophy lends itself well to such a project. Only relatively minor engineering adjustments are required to accommodate a glove box that is fully flexible per the user’s requirements.”
Robert O’Brien, Ph.D., of the INL’s Center for Space Nuclear Research is the principal investigator for its cermet fuels and radioisotope encapsulation research programs, and serves as the Radiological Spark Plasma Sintering (RSPS) facility lead. “Located at the INL’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies, the RSPS facility will allow the CSNR to conduct pioneering research into advanced fabrication methods for future high-performance nuclear fuels while creating a truly unique facility that will be open for collaborative use by the international research community,” O’Brien said.
SPS has multiple commercial applications. The technology is in a class of non-conventional sintering techniques, because heat is generated internally, as opposed to conventional methods of materials densification such as hot pressing, wherein the heat is external to the sample. While traditional methods of materials processing require hours to reach peak temperature, SPS takes only minutes. This can provide significant time and energy savings, as well as the ability to retain material grain structures, which can be an important feature when processing nano-structure materials.
Thermal Technology’s SPS systems are designed with highly rigid four-post press frames, an extra-large working chamber and large access doors. The flexible footprint can accommodate users’ spatial limitations, while the advanced power supply provides adjustability and heat rates greater than 1500°C per minute. Digital servo valve-controlled hydraulics ensure ultra-fine force control, while programming and data acquisition are accomplished using an on- or off-line PC system.
About the Company
Thermal Technology is a global provider of advanced thermal processing systems, including crystal growth technology, hot presses and SPS systems, and high-temperature vacuum and controlled atmosphere laboratory and production furnaces for the advanced processing of metals, ceramics, glass, quartz and crystal growing applications. The company has more than 60 years of experience and more than 3,000 installations in 40 countries.