Applied Chemistry

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Applied Chemistry

The Applied Chemistry Department focuses on the development of chemical production processes. This work is funded under government programmes, external clients or government departments such as DMRE, DSI and the DTIC. These projects are advanced internally up to TRL4 (Integrated process demonstration on a laboratory scale) and AC personnel assist and consult on higher technology readiness levels to develop these projects through to production. Technical support is provided to existing plants. Management and research within the department is ISO 9001:2015 accredited.

 

 

Research programs

Research within the department centres around uranium, plasma and fluorine technology. A number of programmes supporting these and related focus areas are managed. Uranium chemistry forms an important base for various research areas in the nuclear fuel cycle from ore extraction to post reactor waste management. Plasma technology is used in a range of processes from chemical modification, material spheroidization to waste reduction. As part of plasma technology development, several application areas have been researched. These include mineral beneficiation (Zircon sand and CaF2), pigment manufacturing (Titanium and Zirconium pigments), nanoparticle manufacturing (SiO2, Al2O3, TiO2 and B4C), specialized chemical production (Fluorocarbons such as CF4, C2F4, C3F6), plasma spheroidisation (Ti, Fe, precious metals) and nuclear and non-nuclear waste gasification and waste-to-energy. Several plasma and high temperature setups are available for experimental and prototyping research and development.

Fluorine chemistry expertise is applied to develop novel fluorochemical production processes for application in semiconductor and energy storage commercial areas. The research programs are supported by various material characterisation capabilities which include a Light Microscopy and Electron Microscopy facility as well as various powder characterization capabilities which include surface area and pore structure by gas adsorption (BET), pore structure by Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry (MIP), density determination by He-gas pycnometry and particle size distribution (PSD) by laser light scattering. Project support is also provided with state of the art vibrational spectroscopy (Raman and FTIR), electronic spectroscopy (UV-vis-NIR) and thermal analysis facilities.

Services

Support is given to Necsa subsidiaries Pelchem (fluorochemicals) and NTP (radioisotopes). The Plasma Group undertakes contract research for external clients on various fronts. This includes research on spheroidisation, gasification of different types of waste, feasibility studies, concept-designs and specification development. The Fluorine Chemistry Group participates in national programs where specialist support is given to other collaborative research institutions such as universities and science councils. The Nuclear Waste Research Group assists the Necsa Waste Management Department in the development of processes for recovery of valuable elements from nuclear waste, as well as conditioning of waste before final disposal.

Training

The department hosts postgraduate students under various programs, e.g. the Professional Development program (PDP) of the NRF. Support is also given to postgraduate training at universities as the Human Capital Development component of various DSI sponsored programmes (e.g. AMI). Additionally in-service training is provided to new staff in highly specialised technologies such as fluorine chemistry, nuclear waste treatment and plasma technology. On several occasions members of the Plasma Team lectured students at post graduate and conference workshops.

Capabilities

We have different laboratories licensed under the NNR to be used for various radiation related projects. A number of plasma systems are available in-house. Within the department we have laboratories capable of handling up to 100% high pressure fluorine gas and different concentrations of hydrofluoric acid as well as pure anhydrous hydrogen fluoride.

A large number of in-house analytical instrumentation is used for research purposes. These include various thermal analysis, spectroscopy, chromatography, radionuclide measurement and physical characterization equipment.

Achievements

Applied Chemistry actively participates in a number of DSI sponsored development programmes like: AMI, Energy Storage, etc., and also participate in coordinated research projects of the IAEA on nuclear waste treatment. The Plasma Group have also developed the first of a kind in SA Plasma Waste to Energy system able to convert wood chip waste into electricity. Several fluorochemical processes have been successfully commercialised at Necsa’s Pelchem subsidiary.

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC Spectrometer SystemRaman Reflex inViaRenishaw
ARABIC Spectrometer SystemRaman Reflex inViaRenishaw
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC Thermogravimetric system
ARABIC Thermogravimetric system
Figure 3: Scanning Electron Microscope
Scanning Electron Microscope
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC
Figure \* ARABIC

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