Non-oxide ceramics, such as silicon carbide (SiC) and silicon nitride (Si3N4), have excellent properties that make the materials interesting for application also in the nuclear sector. Due to their exceptional resistance to high temperatures, aggressive and abrasive media as well as nuclear radiation, the materials seem to be particularly suitable for developments in such fields as high-temperature reactors ((V)HTR) and peripheral systems (e.g. for hydrogen production). To simplify and thus to enable the technical application of these high-tech ceramics, the Dresden University of Technology has developed a laser beam joining process. This opens up many possibilities, e.g., to encase HTR fuel elements (as well as spheres and composites) in SiC, to encapsulate highly radioactive waste in SiC or to build a highly efficient heat transformer using high-temperature energy from VHT reactors. The progress made in laser beam technology in the last few years is a major element that has contributed to the developments achieved to date. Research has been focused mainly on the following three areas: (1) optimization of the laser parameters in combination with the advancement of oxide brazing fillers, (2) transfer of the basic technology to other high-tech ceramics like oxide ceramics, and (3) application of the laser process to develop electrically conductive joints. The possibility to laser join also Al2O3 and ZrO2 ceramics has created the opportunity to produce full ceramic sensors for (V)HTR specific applications at low cost. This requires adaptation of laser technology to the special properties of oxide ceramics. These are markedly less resistant to thermally induced stress than non-oxide ceramics, placing high requirements on laser process control. Another peculiarity is the property of oxide ceramics to be partly transparent to the laser wavelengths emitted by diode lasers (808 nm and 940 nm), with the result that the ceramic material is not heated primarily at the surface but inside its volume. This produces joint seams inside ceramic components even without any excessive thermal stress. The R&D work has made it possible to produce novel sensors for the high-temperature range that are also highly resistant to aggressive media. It is considered a further advantage that this joining technology has no special requirements regarding the process atmosphere such as vacuum or inert gas, which ensures that the process lends itself well to automation.

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