3D Printed PEEK
Only a few years in the past, the FDA authorised the primary Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) to be produced domestically with out using extremely enriched uranium (HEU). This medical isotope helps radiologists detect bone decay, coronary heart illness, and a few sorts of cancers which might be tough to seek out, and in 2018, the US Division of Power’s Nationwide Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) reported that Mo-99 was utilized in over 40,000 medical procedures every day within the US – a quantity that has doubtless elevated. So a staff of scientists from the DOE’s Argonne Nationwide Laboratory turned to 3D printing to try to get extra out of this vital isotope.
“Yearly, docs depend on Molybdenum-99 to conduct tens of millions of medical procedures to diagnose sicknesses like coronary heart illness or most cancers. However producers of this medical isotope lacked a simple, cost-effective option to recycle it – till now,” Dave Bukey, the Built-in Communications Lead at Argonne, advised 3DPrint.com.
Argonne, the nation’s first nationwide laboratory, employs folks from over 60 nations, and works to provide you with options to vital nationwide issues in science and know-how, typically turning to 3D printing to unravel them. The laboratory typically works with researchers from different firms, universities, and companies to assist clear up these issues, in addition to advance the nation’s scientific management.
Mo-99 decays into technetium-99m, which is then utilized by radiologists to develop prescription drugs for medical procedures. It may be constructed from enriched molybdenum, however it’s undoubtedly not low-cost, costing roughly $1,000 per gram. However now, it’s attainable to scale up recycling of isotopically enriched molybdenum, Mo-98 or 100, for the primary time within the US, because of Argonne’s recycling technique and a few 3D printed elements.
This technique was first pioneered again in 2015 by the laboratory’s Mo-99 program supervisor, Peter Tkac, and his staff, and is quicker, extra dependable, and cost-effective.
Tkac mentioned, “Our unique technique would have been very tough to automate.”
The staff’s unique recycling course of for enriched molybdenum was, as Bukey aptly described in an Argonne put up, “tedious.” Together with different corrosive chemical substances, used enriched molybdenum was transformed into an acidic resolution, then purified with take a look at tubes and funnels in a prolonged, multi-step course of.
In 2016, Tkac and different researchers turned their consideration to automating the method, along with aerospace engineer, 3D printing professional, and fellow Argonne worker Peter Kozak. As an alternative of counting on the funnels and take a look at tubes, they as a substitute used 3D printed acrylic contactors, which use centrifugal power (acts outward on a physique shifting round a middle) to spin and separate the chemical substances.
“We printed every contactor as one piece with streamlined options and fewer exterior connections. This enables us to push the liquid by way of the system as rapidly and reliably as attainable,” Kozak defined.
These 3D printed contactors made the recycling of enriched molybdenum extra environment friendly and cheaper, in keeping with the analysis staff, which incorporates Alex Brown and Brian Saboriendo. An article revealed within the Journal of Solvent Extraction and Ion Change in December defined that this up to date recycling course of was higher capable of separate enriched molybdenum from potassium and different contaminants.
Nonetheless, the staff did run into an issue – after about 15 hours of operation, the 3D printed plastic contactors had been corroded by hydrochloric acid used within the recycling course of.
Kozak mentioned, “Our experiment was profitable. However if you wish to transfer into full manufacturing, you want materials that may survive quite a bit longer than that.”
Tkac and Kozak quickly found polyetheretherketone, or PEEK, which is extra sturdy than the unique acrylic plastic they had been utilizing, and likewise resists the Argonne recycling technique’s natural solvents and mineral acids. Nonetheless, PEEK does shrink throughout 3D printing, which causes the fabric to warp, so Kozak modified the temperature and pace of the 3D printer’s fan to compensate for this problem. This allowed the staff to 3D print their contactors out of PEEK, which made them stronger and extra versatile. Now, they’ll rapidly, effectively, and cost-effectively recycle enriched molybdenum, because of 3D printed PEEK elements that may stand as much as the chemical substances that separate the Mo-99 from different supplies in the course of the recycling course of.
The DOE Nationwide Nuclear Safety Administration’s Workplace of Protection Nuclear Nonproliferation and Workplace of Materials Administration and Minimization supported this vital analysis.
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(Photographs 3D Printed PEEK by Argonne Nationwide Laboratory)
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