NSUF Article

Supporting our nuclear future - The Activated Materials Laboratory

Monday, March 7, 2022 - Facility Highlight

The Activated Materials Laboratory (AML) at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) will assist the nuclear community in examining radioactive samples at the High-Energy X-ray Microscope (HEXM) at 20-ID and other beamlines at the APS. This facility will support the broader needs of the nuclear community by introducing highly advanced characterization tools, providing more utility, and offering additional functions.

The Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) encouraged placement at Argonne National Laboratory because Argonne also hosts the Irradiated Materials Laboratory. This radiological facility performs post-irradiation examination and specimen preparation of radioactive materials. It has been used for irradiated sample receiving, preparation, mounting and disassembling in several APS experiments, including assisting NSUF users. Additionally, Argonne operates the Intermediate Voltage Electron Microscopy-Tandem facility, an NSUF partner facility.

This laboratory is critical due to growing interest in access to the most advanced synchrotron X-ray techniques for activated samples. Unfortunately, current challenges in sample transfer and handling create limitations. The AML will allow users to safely conduct these experiments and includes the capabilities to perform research without altering materials. Some additional benefits include minimal sample preparation; complex environments for in situ studies; and a wide range of scattering, imaging, and spectroscopy experiments.


The main functions of the AML include (1) receiving and shipping activated samples; (2) ability to manipulate activated samples outside of containment; (3) characterizing, testing, and maintaining experimental apparatus for activated materials; and (4) temporary storage of activated samples before and after the experiment.

While recent progress has demonstrated the great potential of synchrotron X-ray techniques for physical, chemical, and structural analysis of materials for nuclear energy applications, these techniques are not readily available to a broader nuclear scientific user community. The AML will enable the nuclear community to investigate irradiated materials and nuclear fuels with a range of synchrotron X-ray techniques that have robust radiological hazard and safety controls.

The NSUF has provided funding for the design and construction of the AML. From FY 2020 to 2022, the NSUF has been able to contribute approximately $2.35 million toward the AML. This funding covered AML design and construction costs in addition to outfitting of the lab with features such as cabinetry, an overhead crane, two fume hoods, two gloveboxes, and storage cabinets. The AML is sited at the Long Beamline Building of the APS, which contains end-stations of two feature beamlines built as part of the APS-Upgrade (HEXM at 20-ID and ISN at 19-ID) and thus leverages these investments.

With estimated completion by the end of 2022, the NSUF is excited to support the AML and bring these important capabilities to our users.