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Argonne experts scale up healthcare isotope recycling utilizing 3D printing


A study crew from the US Division of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has effectively scaled up the recycling of an critical health-related isotope using 3D printed pieces. The new additively created parts make the laboratory’s primary recycling approach – invented in 2015 – quicker, much more trusted and fewer highly-priced, enabling the system to likely be utilized on an industrial scale.


Radiologists use molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) to detect and diagnose coronary heart ailment, bone decay and several rare cancers. Enriched molybdenum, which is vital for the creation of Mo-99, typically fees about $1000 for every gram to procure. Mo-99 companies, right up until now, have been unable to charge-proficiently recycle enriched molybdenum on a huge scale. The Argonne group expects their novel 3D printed apparatus to enhance the efficiency of the recycling system, letting producers to yield far more Mo-99 from their expensive enriched molybdenum reserves.

The Argonne research team with their 3D printed contactors. Photo via Argonne National Laboratory.
The Argonne investigation group with their 3D printed contactors. Photo through Argonne National Laboratory.

Applying 3D printing certification to recycle enriched molybdenum

The job was led by Mo-99 program supervisor Peter Tkac, whose crew initial discovered the recycling of enriched molybdenum. In the primary procedure, the crew turned the applied enriched molybdenum, together with a cocktail of chemicals, into an acidic alternative. The enriched molybdenum was then purified in several levels utilizing funnels and exam tubes – a process which proved monotonous.

Tkac, in a press release, said: “Our authentic strategy would have been quite tricky to automate.”

A full 12 months later, Tkac commenced doing work with Peter Kozak, a fellow scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, and many others to automate the authentic method. The funnels and test tubes employed to have and transfer the corrosive chemical substances applied in the process were changed with 3D printed acrylic contactors. The investigate staff claimed that it was these contactors that designed the recycling procedure more quickly and additional price-productive.

“We printed just about every contactor as just one piece with streamlined options and fewer external connections,” spelled out Kozak. ​“This enables us to push the liquid as a result of the system as promptly and reliably as probable.”

While the new apparatus efficiently separated the enriched molybdenum from contaminants this sort of as potassium, the staff observed the 3D printed acrylic corroding following 15 several hours of procedure due to the lower pH hydrochloric acid.

Kozak provides, “Our experiment was prosperous, ​but if you want to shift into comprehensive creation, you need content that will survive a large amount for a longer time than that.”

3D printed contactor. Photo via Argonne National Laboratory.
3D printed contactor. Picture by way of Argonne National Laboratory.

The shift to PEEK effectiveness

The research workforce eventually resolved to use polyether ether ketone (PEEK), a strong polymer known for its chemical resistance. Upon trialing 3D printed PEEK contactors, nevertheless, the crew found the product to shrink drastically through the fabrication course of action, ensuing in warping. To counteract this, the Argonne researchers altered the printer’s enthusiast speeds and temperatures, and at some point effectively 3D printed PEEK contactors that had been much better and a lot more adaptable than the authentic acrylic components. The finish final result was a a lot quicker and much more value-helpful enriched molybdenum recycling method with the ability to withstand harsh chemical problems for extended intervals of time.

The conclusions of the job are thorough in a paper titled ‘Demonstration of the MOEX Approach Utilizing Additive-Production-Fabricated Annular Centrifugal Contactors’, in the Journal of Solvent Extraction and Ion Exchange. It is co-authored by Peter Kozak, Peter Tkac, Kent Wardle, Alex Brown & George Vandegrift.

PEEK has been the focus of quite a few health-related units in the past owing to its appealing mechanical and chemical homes. FossiLabs, a US-based mostly clinical 3D printing certification start out-up, has earlier developed 3D printed bone-like scaffolding constructions applying a porous PEEK materials. The bone-like structures are developed to be applied inside of extended-phrase implantable health care devices.

Elsewhere, in Shanghai, a healthcare system production agency, has designed and fabricated a PEEK exoskeleton termed BioNEEK that supplies aid for a variety of knee problems. The knee brace features a damper designed to take in shocks that would normally be exerted immediately on the knee joint.

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Highlighted picture exhibits a 3D printed contactor. Image through Argonne National Laboratory.