Doped silicon is a perfect semiconductor for high-energy electrical applications such as wind turbines, plants operating on solar energy, hybrid vehicles and high-speed trains. It facilitates the efficient transport of electricity over very long distances. However, to enable this, the doped silicon must be very pure, which is exactly the specialty of SCK CEN. Thanks to the BR2 reactor, we succeed in producing NTD silicon or Neutron Transmutation Doped silicon, which makes us an important player within the semiconductor industry.
Doped silicon is an exceptionally pure form of silicon with a strictly controlled minimal addition of phosphor, a related chemical element. Phosphor can be produced from silicon through a nuclear reaction in a nuclear reactor, i.e. when radiated silicon absorbs neutrons, thus creating phosphor. The ratio is 1 added phosphor atom for every1 billion silicon atoms. Because of its specific features, our BR2 reactor is highly suited for ‘doping’ top-quality silicon crystals of different diameters.
Customised irradiation services
SCK CEN uses its knowledge about material aging and innovative nuclear technology to warrant a safe operation and monitoring on nuclear sites worldwide. SCK CEN’s BR2 research reactor plays a major part in this because it tests various types of fissile materials and irradiates structural materials for both current and future nuclear reactors. Thanks to the intensity of the radiation, we can obtain a realistic picture of how materials (will) behave in a nuclear reactor so that we can accurately predict the life span of nuclear reactors.
SCK CEN gears its services to the individual customer’s specific needs and wishes. We work out a process on the basis of prior consultations so that the customer can rely on the best possible service for its specific situation. We also discuss how our experts can offer maximum added value. We usually work together with the customer according to two different processes:
- Fully integrated process
SCK CEN supports you throughout all stages of the irradiation process. We draw up the plans, execute the irradiation and analyse the materials. We then gather the results in a comprehensive report.
We put our facilities at the customer’s disposal throughout the entire process. SCK CEN guides you through the safety analysis that is needed to make use of our facilities but the customer is responsible for the design and construction of the device and for the analysis.
Radio-isotopes for industrial applications
In addition to the worldwide production of medical radio-isotopes, SCK CEN also produces radio-isotopes for industrial applications. Science and industry use radio-isotopes in different ways:
- As industrial tracers: radio-isotopes help manufacturers to monitor the flow and filtration of liquids, trace leaks and engine wear and measure the corrosion of equipment. The oil and gas industry use radiotracers to determine the location of oil fields.
- As inspection instruments: radio-isotopes are used for inspecting metal components and the integrity of welded structures. Just as X-rays show a bone fracture, gamma rays visualise defects in metal welded joints. In this way, critical components can be traced without causing damage.
- As meters: radio-isotopes are used in measuring devices in industries where the level of gases, liquids and solid substances must be checked. These meters can reach places where ‘ordinary’ contact meters cannot be used: near sources of heat, pressure ranges or corrosive substances such as molten glass or metal.
SCK CEN even produces synthetic radio-isotopes such as iridium-192, which is used for inspecting welded joints in boilers, pipes, aircraft components, buildings, etc. This radio-isotope also has a medical application in brachytherapy.