Micofluidic Spectroscopic Sensor for Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Solutions

Period of Performance: 06/13/2016 - 03/12/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Spectra Solutions, Inc.
1502 Providence Highway Unit 2
Norwood, MA 02062
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Nuclear power is the most environmentally benign way of producing electricity on a large scale. The long-term successful use of nuclear power, however, is critically dependent upon adequate and safe processing and disposal of spent nuclear fuels. A very important feature of nuclear energy is that spent fuels can be reprocessed to recover fissile and fertile materials that can then be used as fresh fuel for nuclear power plants. The current procedure for accounting of nuclear materials in a reprocessing plant is a periodic annual plant closure. The one year time lag between inventories does not meet the need of identifying immediate or timely detection of diverted materials. Thus, there is a need for methods to provide on-line monitoring and control of the radiochemical processes that are being developed under the Department Of Energy-Nuclear Energy Fuel Cycle Research and Development program. The instrumentation must be robust, maintenance free, and able to withstand harsh radioactive environments. The use of state-of-the-art analytical sensor that can reliably determine in real time or near real time key analytes in the extraction process will enable nuclear fuel reprocessing processes to run more efficiently and provide immediate inventory of nuclear materials.General statement of how this problem is being addressed: The outcome of this program will be a microfluidic flow cell chip with embedded Raman/UV-vis-NIR absorption probes for the analysis of key analytes at multiple locations within a nuclear fuel reprocessing extraction plant. This will improve the extraction process and reduce operation costs of nuclear fuel reprocessing plants and also provide accountability of fissile materials. Phase I work: The Phase I work will include the design and prototype development of a microfluidic flow cell with integrated fiber optically coupled spectroscopic probes. Phase I will involve development of an efficient integration of absorption and Raman probes in a microfluidic flow cell chip under micro flow conditions. The analytical performance of the microfluidic flow cell sensor will be evaluated using fuel reprocessing simulants. Commercial applications and other benefits: The technology developed will find use as a process and anti-tamper sensor for fuel reprocessing operations and other solvent extraction processes. The microfluidic flow cell chip sensor will also find use as a process monitoring tool in oil refineries, chemical and metallurgical manufacturing processes and pharmaceutical production, where Raman and absorption probes are already widely used. Key Words: Raman, UV-vis-NIR absorption, fuel reprocessing, PUREX, microfluidic