Argonne scientists scale up medical isotope recycling using 3d printing

Argonne scientists scale up medical isotope recycling utilizing 3D printing

A analysis group from the US Division of Vitality’s Argonne Nationwide Laboratory has efficiently scaled up the recycling of an vital medical isotope utilizing 3D printed elements. The brand new additively manufactured elements make the laboratory’s unique recycling course of – invented in 2015 – quicker, extra dependable and more cost effective, enabling the strategy to doubtlessly be used on an industrial scale.


Radiologists use molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) to detect and diagnose coronary heart illness, bone decay and numerous uncommon cancers. Enriched molybdenum, which is essential for the manufacturing of Mo-99, sometimes prices about $1000 per gram to acquire. Mo-99 producers, till now, have been unable to cost-effectively recycle enriched molybdenum on a big scale. The Argonne group expects their novel 3D printed equipment to extend the effectivity of the recycling course of, permitting producers to yield extra Mo-99 from their costly enriched molybdenum reserves.

The Argonne analysis group with their 3D printed contactors. Picture through Argonne Nationwide Laboratory.

Utilizing 3D printing to recycle enriched molybdenum

The mission was led by Mo-99 program supervisor Peter Tkac, whose group first found the recycling of enriched molybdenum. Within the unique course of, the group turned the used enriched molybdenum, together with a cocktail of chemical substances, into an acidic answer. The enriched molybdenum was then purified in a number of levels utilizing funnels and check tubes – a course of which proved tedious.

Tkac, in a press launch, said: “Our unique methodology would have been very tough to automate.”

An entire yr later, Tkac started working with Peter Kozak, a fellow scientist at Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, and others to automate the unique course of. The funnels and check tubes used to include and switch the corrosive chemical substances used within the course of have been changed with 3D printed acrylic contactors. The analysis group claimed that it was these contactors that made the recycling course of quicker and extra cost-efficient.

“We printed every contactor as one piece with streamlined options and fewer exterior connections,” defined Kozak. ​“This enables us to push the liquid via the system as rapidly and reliably as doable.”

Whereas the brand new equipment successfully separated the enriched molybdenum from contaminants corresponding to potassium, the group discovered the 3D printed acrylic corroding after 15 hours of operation as a result of low pH hydrochloric acid.

Kozak provides, “Our experiment was profitable, ​however if you wish to transfer into full manufacturing, you want materials that may survive so much longer than that.”

3D printed contactor. Photo via Argonne National Laboratory.3D printed contactor. Picture through Argonne Nationwide Laboratory.

The transfer to PEEK effectivity

The analysis group ultimately determined to make use of polyether ether ketone (PEEK), a sturdy polymer recognized for its chemical resistance. Upon trialing 3D printed PEEK contactors, nonetheless, the group discovered the fabric to shrink considerably through the fabrication course of, leading to warping. To counteract this, the Argonne scientists altered the printer’s fan speeds and temperatures, and ultimately efficiently 3D printed PEEK contactors that have been stronger and extra versatile than the unique acrylic elements. The top end result was a faster and less expensive enriched molybdenum recycling system with the aptitude to face up to harsh chemical situations for prolonged durations of time.

The findings of the mission are detailed in a paper titled ‘Demonstration of the MOEX Course of Utilizing Additive-Manufacturing-Fabricated Annular Centrifugal Contactors’, within the Journal of Solvent Extraction and Ion Change. It’s co-authored by Peter Kozak, Peter Tkac, Kent Wardle, Alex Brown & George Vandegrift.

PEEK has been the main target of many medical gadgets previously as a consequence of its fascinating mechanical and chemical properties. FossiLabs, a US-based medical 3D printing start-up, has beforehand produced 3D printed bone-like scaffolding buildings utilizing a porous PEEK materials. The bone-like buildings are designed for use inside long-term implantable medical gadgets.

Elsewhere, in Shanghai, a medical machine manufacturing agency, has designed and fabricated a PEEK exoskeleton known as BioNEEK that gives help for a spread of knee issues. The knee brace contains a damper designed to soak up shocks that will in any other case be exerted instantly on the knee joint.

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Featured picture reveals a 3D printed contactor. Picture through Argonne Nationwide Laboratory.

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