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Structure–property relations in graphitic pebbles for nuclear applications

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Nuclear Engineering and Design
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This work presents an analytical approach for holistically characterizing graphitic matrix pebbles for nuclear applications whereby the macrostructure, microstructure, and thermophysical properties of pebbles are determined. A systematic sectioning method was applied to several pebbles to describe the regional properties of the samples. Intact matrix-only spheres and sections of spheres fabricated by Kairos Power were characterized via optical imaging, x-ray computed tomography, x-ray diffraction, and ellipsometry to determine 2D and 3D macrostructure and anisotropy. The thermophysical properties of these materials were determined via measurements of density, specific heat, thermal expansion, and thermal diffusivity. The results of this study indicate that the pebble fabrication methods and their resultant effect on microstructure have a nontrivial effect on thermophysical properties, confirming the importance of robust characterization of these components. A discussion of the characterization approach and its applicability to nuclear fuel development activities is also included.