Nuclear Materials facility

Scientific manager:

Olivier TOUGAIT (PR–ULille)

Technical Manager:

Philippe DEVAUX (TCH–ULille)


Philippe DEVAUX


The technical facility ‘Nuclear Materials’ offers possibilities for the synthesis of uranium compounds, as well as their preparation for analysis: precipitation, calcination, drying, melting, pelleting, sintering, cutting, polishing, liquid-solid separation (filtration and/or centrifugation) and sieving.

Accessible to all researchers who have received training from the Radiation Safety Officer, the platform also offers academic collaborations and long-term partnerships with industrial companies. The possibility of handling certain radioelements (uranium and thorium) makes achievable study about the nuclear fuel cycle.

For the laboratory's researchers, it is also possible to use certain equipment themselves after following individual or group training.


Remarkable equipment

Nuclear Facilty specificity : Radioactive powder handling

Due to the use of radioactive powder, the set is equipped with safety features such as laminar flow hoods and glove boxes.

The two laminar flow hoods are designed to ensure the protection of workers and the environment when handling radioactive powder. Three HEPA filters are present on these hoods, keeping the powders inside.

Two glove boxes are present. These boxes are under argon, isolating the radioactive elements from the ambient air, allowing the storage of materials or the preparation of samples for analysis. These boxes are equipped with a balance, as well as a hydraulic press for pelleting.

2 Laminary flow hoods Cyto Fast Elite 218
2 Glove boxes Jacomex GP campus

Glove boxes

Laminar flow hoods

Nuclear-specific elements: Synthesis and sample preparation

The Facility is equipped to perform powder synthesis by precipitation. Once precipitated, the powder can be separated from the liquid phase by filtration or centrifugation. Centrifugation is a process that allows the separation of compounds in a mixture according to their density difference, by accelerating the decantation. The facility is equipped with centrifugation holders from a few milliliters to 200 mL.

Planetary milling is used to break up or mix materials, as well as to homogenize emulsions and pastes or to perform mechanosynthesis and activation in materials research applications. The mill used allows these processes to be carried out on radioactive elements.

Sieving allows solid particles to be separated according to their size, enabling granulometric analysis. The facility is equipped with a sieve shaker and several sieves.

The Nuclear Platform is equipped with two hydraulic presses, the first under ambient air, the second in a glove box. These presses allow the shaping of powders in the form of compacts with a diameter of 8 or 10 mm.

The electric arc furnace is used in metallurgy to melt metals. An electric arc is created in a chamber containing the raw materials to be melted. The raw arc ingots can then be analyzed directly or after heat-treatment. The facility is equipped with an electric arc furnace for melting alloys containing radioactive elements or not.

Some preparations require a heat treatment, for which the platform is equipped with a set of furnaces (which can operate under different atmospheres: air, argon, argon-hydrogen) and ovens.

In order to perform surface analyses (optical, electronic microscopies), polishing is necessary. The platform is equipped with a polishing machine for the surface grinding of radioactive materials (solid parts or coated powders). The surface quality can be observed during the polishing process with the help of a binocular magnifying glass located next to the polishing machine.

In order to obtain samples with special dimensions, whether for the production of slices or for adapting the size of a sample to the dimensions of the analysis apparatus, the facility is equipped with a diamond saw. The range of blades available allows the cutting of many materials, including uranium in metallic form.

Centrifuge Thermoscientific Sorvale ST16

Planetary milling Retsch PM100

Sieve Shaker Retsch AS200 basic

Manual hydraulic press Specac

Arc Furnace E. Bühler Gmbh MAM


Polishing machine Struers Tegramin 30

Binocular motic smz 168

Cutting machine Lamplan Cutlam Micro 3.0

Nabertherm (left) and Eraly (right) tube furnaces


Powder analysis : Morphogranulometer

The observation of the particles composing a powder, the surface of a solid part or the particles of a suspension can be done optically.

The platform is equipped with a morphogranulometer. It is used to characterize particles in order to determine their morphological (shape) or granulometric (size) properties.

The morphogranulometer allows to analyse a powder by the solid route (direct dispersion on a glass slide), by the liquid route (dispersion in a solution and deposition of the suspension on a glass slide), but also with a cell to analyse a suspension. The size of the particles can vary from 1 µm to several mm. The characterization is done by optical detection. The morphogranulometer analyses the particles in a sample separately and then pixelates the images, which allows each particle to be characterized by its shape or dimensions.

Classes of particles can then be formed, by grouping together particles of the same morphology (or similar shape), or particles of the same size. This analysis then allows the quantification of the different populations of a sample.

Malvern G3SE Morphogranulometer in use

Properties of a particle measured with a morphogranulometer

Morphological classes and particle size distributions obtained with the morphogranulometer