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Dokumentenidentifikation EP0797828 17.12.1998
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0797828
Titel HERSTELLUNG VON KERAMISCHEN GEGENSTÄNDEN
Anmelder British Nuclear Fuels plc, Risley, Warrington, Cheshire, GB
Erfinder BROMLEY, Anthony, Philip, Leeds LS2 9JP, GB
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
DE-Aktenzeichen 69506006
Vertragsstaaten BE, CH, DE, ES, FR, GB, LI, SE
Sprache des Dokument En
EP-Anmeldetag 14.12.1995
EP-Aktenzeichen 959422619
WO-Anmeldetag 14.12.1995
PCT-Aktenzeichen GB9502915
WO-Veröffentlichungsnummer 9618999
WO-Veröffentlichungsdatum 20.06.1996
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 01.10.1997
EP date of grant 11.11.1998
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 17.12.1998
IPC-Hauptklasse G21C 3/62
IPC-Nebenklasse C04B 35/51   

Beschreibung[en]

The present invention relates to the manufacture of ceramic articles and, particularly but not exclusively, to the manufacture of ceramic pellets such as nuclear fuel pellets.

In general, when a particulate material is compacted in a die, particle-particle friction and die-wall-particle friction result in variations in the applied pressure in the particulate body and, in consequence, the compacted body has a non-uniform pressed density. The non-uniform pressed density of the compact gives rise to a differential shrinkage during subsequent sintering, resulting in distortion of the ceramic article. Even when sintering is not accompanied by shrinkage, the nonuniformity of density remains in the sintered component and is a source of weakness.

Nuclear fuel pellets are ceramic substantially cylindrical solid or hollow bodies which are composed mainly or wholly of an oxide of uranium, especially UO2. Collections of such pellets are used together in a sheath providing a fuel rod or pin. Assemblies of such rods or pins are employed as the active elements in a nuclear reactor.

In a conventional process for the manufacture of nuclear fuel pellets, a uranic oxide powder, eg manufactured in the manner described in EP 0277708, is compacted or compressed in a die or mould and then sintered usually over a period of several hours at least, usually in a reducing atmosphere at elevated temperatures, eg 1500°C to 1800°C.

Document US-A-3 823 067 discloses a method of manufacturing a ceramic article including the steps of forming a body of particulate material, compressing the body at its ends and sintering the body wherein the body is formed prior to compression of discrete layers of particulate material having different bulk particles densities.

It is desirable for the pellets to be produced with a body shape which is a right circular cylinder. Product specifications normally require such a shape. However, pellets produced in the conventional manner described above may not, after sintering, be obtained with a right circular cylindrical shape even though the cavity of the die or mould used to form the pellet shape is itself a perfect right circular cylinder. The pellets are often produced with a shape which has a body waist in a wheatsheaf-like profile, ie the cross-sectional area (perpendicular to the pellet axis) taken at different points along the length of the pellet is less near the middle of the pellet than near the ends of the pellet. Grinding of the pellets is normally required after sintering to meet product specifications. Such grinding is both time consuming and costly.

The purpose of the present invention is to reduce or eliminate the need for such grinding following sintering.

According to the present invention there is provided a method of manufacturing a ceramic article as disclosed in claim 1.

The ceramic article may comprise a ceramic pellet having a substantially cylindrical shape.

The ceramic pellet may comprise a nuclear fuel pellet and the particulate material may comprise nuclear fuel material.

We have found by experimental analysis that the wheatsheaf shaped profile obtained in the prior art is caused by sintering a green pellet having a density which is less in its interior region than at its ends. This differential density profile is caused in the following way. In the usual method of pressing a green pellet from a powder, the powder is introduced into a right circular cylindrical die cavity and the powder is compressed at its ends. Owing to friction effects within the powder body, there is a variation in load experienced by different regions within the body and a slight barrelling of the pellet body occurs near the middle of the pellet. The barrelled region has a lower density than the end regions of the body because the same particles occupy a greater volume.

By employing regions of particulate material having different densities prior to compaction in accordance with the present invention the reduction in density caused upon compaction by the aforementioned barrelling effect is compensated for and a compact having a more uniform density distribution is obtained. This in turn provides, upon sintering, a sintered pellet having a more uniform cross-sectional body shape.

In the method according to the present invention the body of particulate material may be formed by introducing powder or particles of the nuclear fuel material into a mould or die cavity having a substantially right circular cylindrical shape.

The said body may prior to compaction comprise discrete layers having different densities. Such layers may have interfaces which are substantially planar, eg in a plane orthogonal to the axis of the body. Alternatively, the layer interfaces may be non-planar eg convex or concave to provide a suitable density profile.

Alternatively, the density change in the said body prior to compaction may take place gradually, eg linearly with distance, over a portion of the length of the body.

The said body prior to compaction desirably includes regions at the ends of the body which have a density less than that in the interior region ie near the middle of the body.

The different densities in the said body may be achieved by the introduction of particulate material into a die or mould cavity from a plurality of sources containing different particulate materials providing different bulk densities, the release of material from the two sources being controlled so as to give the required density profile in the body. The different particulate materials may comprise for example materials of the same composition but which have been treated differently or which have different particle morphology. The different particle types may comprise, for example, (a) particles produced from a single powder but pre-compacted using different pressures to form different density granules, or (b) particles of the same powder which have on the one hand been milled and on the other hand have not been milled or (c) particles which on the one hand have a plate-like morphology and on the other hand, have a sphere-like morphology or (d) combinations of these different types.

Where granulation is employed to produce different density granules various known granulation methods may be used for the production of granules one or more of the different density types. For example, pre-compaction in a die followed by breaking through a sieve may be employed. Alternatively, roll compaction may be employed.

The body of particulate material, eg produced in one of the ways described, may comprise uranium dioxide which may contain optional additives, eg niobia or gadolinia, or plutonium dioxide (eg up to 6 per cent by weight) to provide a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel pellet. The particles may also be coated with a small quantity, eg less than 1 per cent by weight, of a solid lubricant such as zinc stearate which has been employed in a pre-treatment process or is used in the compaction step, to treat the powders from which the body is formed (directly or indirectly as pre-compacted particles).

The pre-compaction and sintering steps in the method according to the present invention may be carried out in a manner similar to that employed in the prior art although the pressure in the compaction step may be increased with time gradually to a maximum, eg 6-7 tonnes per cm2.

The maximum compaction pressure may be from 1 to 10 Te/cm2. The sintering step may be carried out as in the prior art in an inert gas atmosphere or in a reducing atmosphere, eg hydrogen or a mixture of hydrogen and an inert gas containing up to ∼99% per cent by weight of hydrogen. The sintering step may be carried out for at least one preferably several hours, eg >5 hours, at a temperature in the range 1500°C to 1800°C. A pressure of greater than one atmosphere is desirably applied during the sintering step.

The present invention beneficially and unexpectedly allows ceramic, eg nuclear fuel, pellets to be produced which in profile have sides which are more straight than those obtained immediately after sintering in the prior art. The need for costly post-sinter grinding is thereby reduced or eliminated.

Although the present invention is primarily intended for the production of ceramic, eg nuclear fuel, pellets which in axial cross-section are straight sided pellets having grooves in their curved surfaces or barrel-shaped pellets required for particular applications may also be produced using the invention.

The pellets produced by the present invention may be substantially all solid. Alternatively the pellets may include an axial hole therethrough. The ends of the pellet may be flat or curved, eg convex. The exact shape of the pellet will be as usually specified for the particular type of nuclear reactor (eg AGR or LWR) in which such pellets are to be used in assemblies of fuel rods or pins.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

  • Figure 1 is a schematic profile of a green (pre-sintered) pellet produced as in the prior art.
  • Figure 2 is a schematic profile of a sintered pellet produced as in the prior art.
  • Figure 3 is a schematic profile of a pellet produced by the method of the present invention.
  • Figures 4 and 5 are plots which are actual measured profiles of pellets made respectively as in the prior art and by the invention.

As shown in Figure 1, a pellet profile having a barrel shape 1 is produced by compressing a homogenous UO2 or UO2-based powder in a die or mould cavity of right circular cylindrical cross-section in the conventional manner described above. Upon sintering of the compressed pellet, a pellet of wheatsheaf-like shape 2 is formed as shown in Figure 2. The diameter at the waist of the shape 2 may for example by typically 50 µm (ie 25 µm at each side) less than that at the ends of the pellet for a pellet having dimensions of about 6mm (diameter) by 10mm (length).

Figure 3 shows a pellet profile as obtained by using the method of the present invention. A right circular cylindrical pellet body shape 3 is formed by compressing a UO2 or UO2-based powder having three regions 5, 6, 7. In regions 5 and 7 at the ends of the pellet body the density of particles is d1 and in the region 6 at the middle of the pellet body the density is d2. The density d2 may be three times greater than d1 for regions 5, 6 and 7 of equal depth when the compaction pressure is 2 tonnes/cm2.

When the pellet shown in Figure 3 is sintered in a conventional way, eg as described in the following example, a sintered pellet profile substantially the same as the shape 3 is obtained.

The following illustrative example demonstrates the benefit of the invention as compared with the prior art.

Ceramic grade uranium dioxide powder manufactured by the Applicants was used in the experiments. Two types of granules, Type A and Type B, were prepared from the same UO2 powder as follows.

Type A: Powder was poured into a steel die of diameter 2.54cm and pressed at a pressure of 0.25 tonnes cm-2 to form a disc shaped powder compact of thickness approximately 1 cm. The compact was then broken through a # 14 mesh sieve with orifice size 1.2 mm to produce granules. The resultant granules were placed in a glass jar and 0.2 wt % zinc stearate added. The zinc stearate acts as a lubricant during die pressing. The jar was then placed on rollers and tumbled for 10 minutes to improve granule flowability and mix in the stearate.

Type B: These granules were prepared in exactly the same manner as Type A except that they were pressed at 0.75 tonnes cm-2.

The granules were then pelleted as follows:

Experiment 1 (prior art): 8g of granules of Type B were poured into a right cylindrical die cavity with diameter 11 mm and then pressed with a pressure of 2 tonnes cm-2. The resulting compact was then fired under the following conditions: heating rate 5 C/min ramp rate to 300 C and then a 20 C/min ramp rate up to 1750 C, held at 1750 C for 5 hours and then cooled at 20 C/min. The atmosphere used was pure hydrogen with 0.5 volume % carbon dioxide at a flow rate through the furnace of 10 1/min. No pressure was applied during firing. The fired pellet side profile was then measured on a stylus profile measuring device. The result of profiling is shown in Figure 4 which clearly shows the previously described 'wheatsheaf' effect. In Figure 4, the vertical axis represents pellet radius variation from an arbitrary datum value, as profiled on one side of the pellet and the horizontal axis represents pellet length in distance from an arbitrary point, as measured along the same side of the pellet.

Experiment 2 (invention): 3g of granules of Type A were first placed in the die cavity and the die lightly tapped to ensure the granules lay level. 2g of granules of Type B were placed on top of the Type A granules and again the die tapped. Finally 3g of granules of Type A were laid on top of the Type B layer. The granules were then pressed, fired and measured as in Experiment 1 above. The resultant fired pellet profile shown in Figure 5 is much improved in comparison to the profile obtained by the prior art procedures as illustrated in Figure 4. As in Figure 5, the vertical axis represents pellet radius variation and the horizontal axis represents distance along the pellet both as profiled along the side of the pellet.


Anspruch[de]
  1. Verfahren zur Herstellung eines keramischen Gegenstandes, bei dem man einen Körper aus teilchenförmigem Material bildet, ihn an seinen Enden komprimiert und sintert, wobei der Körper vor dem Komprimieren aus getrennten Schichten teilchenförmigen Materials mit unterschiedlichen Teilchenschüttdichten besteht und wobei der Körper vor dem Komprimieren Bereiche an den Enden des Körpers umfasst, die eine geringere Dichte als im Innenbereich nahe der Mitte des Körpers aufweisen.
  2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, bei dem der keramische Gegenstand einen keramischen Pressling mit einer im Wesentlichen zylindrischen Form enthält.
  3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, bei dem der keramische Pressling ein Kernbrennstoffpellet und das teilchenförmige Material Kernbrennmaterial umfasst.
  4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, 2 oder 3, bei dem der Körper aus teilchenförmigem Material dadurch hergestellt wird, dass man Pulver oder Teilchen des teilchenförmigen Materials in eine Form oder einen Gießformhohlraum mit einer im Wesentlichen rechtszirkulären zylindrischen Form einführt.
  5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 4, bei dem die Schichten Grenzflächen aufweisen, die in einer orthogonal zur Achse des Körpers befindlichen Ebene im Wesentlichen plan sind.
  6. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, bei dem die Grenzflächen der Schichten nicht plan sind.
  7. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, bei dem die Veränderung der Dichte im Körper vor dem Verdichten allmählich über mindestens einen Teil seiner Länge erfolgt.
  8. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, bei dem die verschiedenen Dichten im Körper durch Einleiten von teilchenförmigem Material aus einer Vielzahl von Quellen, die verschiedene teilchenförmige Materialien enthalten, die verschiedene Schüttdichten zur Verfügung stellen, in eine Form oder Vertiefung erzielt werden.
  9. Verfahren nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, bei dem die verschiedenen teilchenförmigen Materialien Materialien der gleichen Zusammensetzung enthalten, die jedoch unterschiedlich behandelt wurden oder eine andere Morphologie der Teilchen aufweisen.
Anspruch[en]
  1. A method of manufacturing a ceramic article including the steps of forming a body of particulate material, compressing the body at its ends and sintering the body wherein the body is formed prior to compression of discrete layers of particulate material having different bulk particle densities, wherein the said body prior to compression includes regions at the ends of the body which have a density less than that in an interior region near the middle of the body.
  2. A method as in claim 1, wherein the ceramic article comprises a ceramic pellet having a substantially cylindrical shape.
  3. A method as in claim 2, wherein the ceramic pellet comprises a nuclear fuel pellet and the particulate material comprises nuclear fuel material.
  4. A method as claimed in claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein the body of particulate material is formed by introducing powder or particles of the particulate material into a mould or die cavity having a substantially right circular cylindrical shape.
  5. A method as claimed in claim 4, wherein the layers have interfaces which are substantially planar in a plane orthogonal to the axis of the body.
  6. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the layer interfaces are non-planar.
  7. A method as in any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the density change in the said body prior to compaction takes place gradually over at least a portion of the length of the body.
  8. A method as claim in any preceding claim, wherein the different densities in the said body are achieved by the introduction of particulate material into a die or mould cavity from a plurality of sources containing different particulate materials providing different bulk densities.
  9. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the different particulate materials comprise materials of the same composition but which have been treated differently or which have different particle morphology.
Anspruch[fr]
  1. Procédé de fabrication d'un article céramique, comprenant des étapes de formation d'un corps d'un matériau particulaire, de compression du corps à ses extrémités, et de frittage du corps, et dans lequel le corps est formé, avant compression, de couches séparées de matériaux particulaires ayant des densités apparentes différentes de particules et dans lequel le corps, avant compression, comprend des régions placées aux extrémités du corps et qui ont une densité inférieure à celle de la région intérieure près du milieu du corps.
  2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'article céramique est une pastille céramique de forme pratiquement cylindrique.
  3. Procédé selon la revendication 2, dans lequel la pastille céramique est une pastille de combustible nucléaire et le matériau particulaire est un matériau combustible nucléaire.
  4. Procédé selon la revendication 1, 2 ou 3, dans lequel le corps du matériau particulaire est formé par introduction d'une poudre ou de particules du matériau particulaire dans une cavité de moule ou de matrice ayant une forme cylindrique de section droite pratiquement circulaire.
  5. Procédé selon la revendication 4, dans lequel les couches ont des interfaces qui sont pratiquement planes dans un plan perpendiculaire à l'axe du corps.
  6. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel les interfaces des couches ne sont pas planes.
  7. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel le changement de densité dans le corps avant compression est réalisé progressivement sur une partie au moins de la longueur du corps.
  8. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel les densités différentes dans le corps sont obtenues par introduction du matériau particulaire dans une cavité de moule ou de matrice à partir de plusieurs sources contenant des matériaux particulaires différents donnant des densités apparentes différentes.
  9. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel les matériaux particulaires différents comprennent des matériaux de même composition mais qui ont été traités différemment ou qui ont une morphologie différente de particules.






IPC
A Täglicher Lebensbedarf
B Arbeitsverfahren; Transportieren
C Chemie; Hüttenwesen
D Textilien; Papier
E Bauwesen; Erdbohren; Bergbau
F Maschinenbau; Beleuchtung; Heizung; Waffen; Sprengen
G Physik
H Elektrotechnik

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