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Exploration of LIBS as a novel and rapid elemental mapping technique of nuclear fuels in the form of surrogate TRISO particles

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 9

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) was employed to characterize coatings on surrogate fuel particles. Tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) particles are a proposed nuclear fuel alternative for high temperature reactors. These particles are constructed of a ZrO2 kernel (as a surrogate to uranium), surrounded by an inner pyrolytic carbon layer and are surrounded by an outer carbide layer (ZrC, presented here) to act as a barrier to fission products generated during nuclear reactions. These particles are embedded within a graphite compact and housed within the reactor core. Simply put, due to their robust nature, performing elemental analysis of these particles poses a challenge. Presented here, LIBS is explored as a method for characterizing elemental constituents of these particles, with the focus being on rapid elemental mapping and depth profiling. Different from traditional elemental analysis techniques (e.g., inductively coupled plasma – based methods), LIBS is advantageous because it can directly analyze the sample surface and can detect light elements such as C and O, making it a viable technique for the analysis of small, multilayered particles as spatial elemental information is warranted in the production of these particles. In the work presented here, LIBS was successfully used for discerning small layers (30–50 μm), detecting the location of carbon and oxygen layers, providing fast 2-D mapping (<5 min per particle) and rapid depth profiling (10 s per particle).