Ceramic composite pellets consisting of uranium oxide, U3O8, particles in a silicon carbide matrix are fabricated using a novel processing technique based on polymer infiltration and pyrolysis (PIP). In this process, spherical particles of depleted uranium oxide, in the form of U3O8, are dispersed in liquid allylhydridopolycarbosilane (AHPCS), and subjected to pyrolysis up to 900°C under a continuous flow of ultra high purity (UHP) argon. Pyrolysis of AHPCS produces near-stoichiometric amorphous SiC at 900°C. Multiple polymer infiltration and pyrolysis (PIP) cycles are required to minimize open porosity and densify the silicon carbide matrix, in order to enhance the mechanical strength of the material. Structural characterization is carried out after first pyrolysis to investigate chemical interaction between U3O8 and SiC. The physical and mechanical properties are also quantified, and it is shown that this processing scheme promotes uniform distribution of uranium fuel source along with a high ceramic yield of the parent matrix. Furthermore, the processing technique involves lower energy requirements than conventional sintering processes currently in practice.

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