Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Travis W Knight


In light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, the Department of Energy's Advanced Fuels Program has shifted its interest from enhanced performance fuels to enhanced accident tolerance fuels. Dispersion fuels possess higher thermal conductivities than traditional light water reactor fuel and as a result, offer improved safety margins. The benefits of a dispersion fuel are due to the presence of the secondary non-fissile phase (matrix), which serves as a barrier to fission products and improves the overall thermal performance of the fuel. However, the presence of a matrix material reduces the fuel volume, which lowers the fissile content of dispersion. This issue can be remedied through the development of higher density fuel phases or through an optimization of fuel particle size and volume loading. The latter requirement necessitates the development of fabrication methods to produce small, micron-order fuel particles.

This research examines the capabilities of the spark erosion process to fabricate particles on the order of 10 μm. A custom-built spark erosion device by CT Electromechanica was used to produce stainless steel surrogate fuel particles in a deionized water dielectric. Three arc intensities were evaluated to determine the effect on particle size. Particles were filtered from the dielectric using a polycarbonate membrane filter and vacuum filtration system. Fabricated particles were characterized via field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), laser light particle size analysis, energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), and gas pycnometry. FESEM images reveal that the spark erosion process produces highly spherical particles on the order of 10 microns. These findings are substantiated by the results of particle size analysis. Additionally, EDS and XRD results indicate the presence of oxide phases, which suggests the dielectric reacted with the molten debris during particle formation.