SANTA ROSA, Calif., October 9, 2012 — Thermal Technology recently shipped a 25-ton, 10,000AMP spark plasma sintering (SPS) system to Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR). The SPS Model 25-10 is fitted with a glove box for handling materials in a controlled environment. This will be integral to the CSNR’s study of advanced high-temperature fuel and structural materials fabrication.

“This system represents another milestone for our SPS product line,” says Matt Mede, Thermal Technology president and CEO. “Our open component design lends itself to such a project. This SPS model requires only relatively minor engineering adjustments to accommodate a glove box that is fully flexible, per the user’s requirements.”

Dr. Robert O’Brien of the INL’s Center for Space Nuclear Research is the Principal Investigator for their cermet fuels and radioisotope encapsulation research programs. He also serves as the Radiological Spark Plasma Sintering (RSPS) Facility lead. “Located at INL’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies, the RSPS facility will allow the CSNR to conduct pioneering research into advanced fabrication methods for future high performance nuclear fuels, while creating a truly unique facility that will be open for collaborative use by the international research community,” says O’Brien.

SPS has multiple commercial applications. SPS technology uses non-conventional sintering techniques. It generates heat internally, as opposed to conventional methods of materials densification such as hot pressing. In that instance, heat is external to the sample. While traditional methods of materials processing require hours to reach peak temperature, SPS takes only minutes. Benefits include significant saving of time and energy, and the ability to retain material grain structures. The latter is an important feature when processing nano-structure materials.

Thermal Technology designed their SPS systems with highly rigid four post press frames, an extra large working chamber and large access doors. The flexible footprint accommodates users’ spatial limitations. The advanced power supply provides unequalled adjustability and heat rates greater than 1500°C per minute. Digital servo valve controlled hydraulics ensure ultra-fine force control. Programming and data acquisition use an on or off-line PC system.

Thermal Technology is a global manufacturer of advanced thermal processing systems. Their product line includes crystal growth technology, hot presses and SPS systems, and high temperature vacuum and controlled atmosphere laboratory and production furnaces for the advanced processing of metals, ceramics, glass, quartz and crystal growing applications. They have over 60 years of experience and more than 3000 installations in 40 countries.

Spark plasma sintering furnace
Thermal Technology’s SPS Model 25-10 fitted with a glove box