There are many challenges affecting fuel compacting and the manufacturing process. Some of these issues are experienced during the mixing and compaction stages. Compaction is related to the spaces between fuel particles. At times, engineers find it important to reduce these spaces for several reasons. Compaction and mixing are some of the important stages in the manufacturing process. Mixing is aimed at reducing the spaces between fuel particles. In physics, these particles determine the quality of the fuel. Fuels are of different types. Most of them are mined from rocks. Different machines and ores are used in the manufacturing process. The essence of these materials is to make work easier (Charollais et al. 539). However, the machines may also pose a threat to the process if they are faulty. All these factors affect manufacturing at different levels. Fuel compacting and manufacturing has different stages. It is important to pay attention to these stages to enhance the quality of the final product.
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Mixing and Compaction in Fuel Compacting and Manufacturing: A Critical Analysis of Challenges
As already indicated, there are several challenges associated with fuel compacting and manufacturing. It is important to address these problems to uphold the quality of the final product. Some of these challenges include:
Correlation Temperature in Mixing and Compaction
One of the biggest problems experienced in the manufacturing process involves temperature correlation. The temperature establishes a connection between mixing and compaction. According to Larsson, mixing and compaction are different processes (7180). However, they occur at the same time and under certain levels of temperature. Heat is important given that it determines the success of the mixing and compacting process. The spaces between fuel particles have to be reduced during the manufacturing process. It is difficult for these particles to mix under low temperatures. It is also noted that the viscosity of a liquid is determined by its temperature. On its part, viscosity affects the fluidity of a substance (MacLeod and Yates 14). At times, temperatures are influenced by the weather. As such, when it is hot, temperatures are high and the viscosity of the fuel is reduced. Consequently, the size of fuel particles decreases.
Small particles make it easy to mix and compact fuel. However, the development creates several challenges. Such problems are common when temperatures are low, especially when it is rainy. As already indicated, low temperatures increase the viscosity of the fuel. Most of the machines used in mixing and compacting are metallic. The metal conducts the heat from the surroundings quickly. As a result, low temperatures hinder the manufacturing process (Charollais et al. 2855). It is also important to note that low temperatures make the fuel particles stick together. The stickiness makes it hard to mix and compact the fluid. As such, one can conclude that low temperatures are a challenge to the manufacturing process.
Several strategies can be adopted to deal with the problem of low temperatures. One of these approaches is to ensure that the manufacturing process takes place under optimum levels of temperature (Yao et al. 9488). A lot of heat can also be a challenge during the mixing and compacting of fuel. As such, a regulator should be provided to stabilize the temperatures during this stage of manufacturing.
Heat may be required during the mixing and compacting of fuel. The requirement may pose a challenge to many companies that lack a constant source of this energy. According to Charollais et al., the temperatures required at this stage of manufacturing must be constant (540). Electricity is the only source of heat that can provide constant levels of temperatures to support the manufacturing process. The other alternative is gas. However, this source is more expensive compared to electricity (Rochais, Basini, and Domingues 3050). Some other sources of heat are not reliable. The reason is that they do not provide constant and optimum temperatures. In addition, they cannot be controlled and regulated to support the mixing and compacting process.
Heating should be supplied for a specific number of hours without interruptions. Engineers have made efforts to come up with alternative sources of heat to improve the mixing and compaction of fuel. However, most of these alternatives have proved to be weak and unreliable. Solar energy is one of the alternative sources of heat that have failed to work (Larsson et al. 7179). Consequently, it is costly to power the manufacturing process. The cost of heating is the main reason why the manufacturing of fuel is only carried out by big companies. The companies can afford to cater to these expenses. In light of this, it is apparent that operational costs associated with heating are major challenges affecting the process of manufacturing fuel.
Challenges Emanating from Fuel Moisture
In addition to low temperatures and heating costs, moisture is another challenge affecting the mixing and compacting process. The nature of fuel components determines the success of these two procedures. Several impurities contaminate the fuel during its extraction. Most of these substances are removed from the final product using such processes as fractional distillation. The removal of the impurities takes place at different stages (Yao et al. 9490). The amount of moisture in fuel is dependent on the availability of water. As such, this component becomes a challenge for mixing and compacting.
It is important to note that fuel and water are immiscible liquids. Water particles are larger than those of fuel. Water particles are also heavier than their fuel counterparts (Yao et al. 9490). During mixing, water elements settle at the bottom of the mixture. On their part, fuel particles are suspended at the top of the mixture. Fuel compacting cannot take place when moisture particles are present. As such, they should be eliminated. However, it takes time to remove these particles from the solution. The process must also be undertaken with a lot of care to ensure that the quality of the fuel is not compromised. Moisture in the fuel is brought about by contamination from underground water. It is also caused by humidity and solar radiation. Eliminating it from the fuel during mixing and compacting can be expensive. As such, the requirement becomes another challenge associated with the manufacturing process.
Safe Storage of Fuel During Mixing and Compacting
Storage of fuel is another challenge affecting the success of the mixing and compacting stage. According to Charollais et al., fuel has several safety risks (540). As a result, it must be handled with care. It is highly flammable and may lead to accidents if stored under poor conditions. A storage tank must be used when mixing and separating fuel. The purpose of the tank is to collect the purified content. Fuel is supposed to be stored in tight containers when mixing. The aim is to ensure that there is no spillage.
Some containers are unsuitable for fuel storage. The material used to make them must be strong enough to withstand the heavyweight of this substance (MacLeod and Yates 15). In addition, the material must be non-corrosive. The reason is that non-corrosive metals withstand rusting. Using corrosive metals to make a tank can lead to contamination of the fuel. Some of the materials commonly used to make storage tanks for fuel include brass and copper (Larsson et al. 7180). However, these components are expensive. Consequently, safety during storage becomes a challenge when manufacturing fuel, especially during mixing and compacting (Larsson et al. 7180). It is only the big companies that can afford to store their fuel safely during this stage.
Building the Mixture during Mixing and Compaction
Fuel compaction makes it possible to mix different elements and hydrocarbons. Binders are used to enhance the quality of the mixture. Mixing the elements can be hectic, especially if done manually. The right quantities of mixtures should be used. The combinations depend on the amount of fuel being manufactured. Different machines are used to measure the ingredients (Rochais, Basini, and Domingues 3052). The mixture coating test is an example of the experiments carried out on the fuel. Coming up with the right mixture is a challenge. The quality of the fuel is affected when mixing is wrong. Time and other resources are used during this critical process.
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Charollais, Francois, Sophie Fonquernie, Christophe Perrais, Marc Perez, Olivier Dugne, Francois Cellier, Gerard Harbonnier and Marie-Pierre Vitali. “CEA and AREVA R&D on HTR Fuel Fabrication and Presentation of the CAPRI Experimental Manufacturing Line.” Nuclear Engineering and Design 236.5 (2006): 534-542. Print.
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