Carbon Aerogels - Hot Catchers for Exotic Isotopes and/or Molecular Species
Short-lived isotopes are expected to play a key role in unraveling the mysteries of nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and fundamental interactions at low energies. This SBIR proposal offers high-temperature-capable solid catcher materials for use in the pre-Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) to improve yields of rare isotopes as atomic or single-species molecular vapors. The applicant will develop carbon aerogels with a nanoporous microstructure to facilitate trapping radioactive isotopes for the efficient release of single-species molecular vapors. The project will focus on developing an efficient and fast-release hot solid catcher material combined with ion sources to harvest unused rare isotope beams. The feasibility of fabricating monoliths of undoped and doped carbon aerogels with tunable densities, high surface area, and high porosity after supercritical drying and pyrolysis at 800 C in an inert environment was demonstrated. We also established that the monoliths remained intact and retained porosity even after vacuum-assisted heating to 1500 C, the temperature required for hot catcher applications in a beam-line. In Phase II we will refine the carbon aerogel processing protocols to yield monoliths with desirable pore sizes and morphology and targeted material densities. Our industrial subcontractor and potential commercialization partner will perform vacuum-assisted heating cycles of selected carbon aerogel samples at temperatures from 1000 C to 2000 C. Our collaborator(s) will assist in evaluating the release efficiency of solid carbon catchers in the beam-line to improve yields of rare isotopes of C15O and C15O2. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: Our approach uses aerogel nanotechnology. The carbon aerogel microstructure would serve as a fast-release catcher for rare isotopes with lifetimes ranging from a few milliseconds to a few minutes. Such isotopes are useful in understanding the origins of the universe. Rare isotopes also have contributions in nuclear medicine suited to both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Secondary markets include specialty thermal insulation, adsorptive media, and capacitors for energy storage.
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