Department of Energy

Watch a Centrifuge Separate Nuclear Waste

July 20, 2016

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Watch a Centrifuge Separate Nuclear Waste

Centrifuges are spinning cylinders that create an outward -- or centrifugal -- force that separates the substances inside. A spinning clothes dryer is a familiar example. 

The type of centrifuge in this video, however, isn’t found around the house. Scientists use centrifuges for a variety of scientific applications, but one of the most critical is isolating nuclear waste.

At Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), one of the Energy Department’s 17 National Labs, researchers are developing the next generation of these important scientific tools. The device features inner and outer cylinders, instead of the standard single cylinder. The cylinders rotate independently and at different rates to produce what is known as "annular Couette flow." 

In the video above, PPPL physicist Erik Gilson describes how this method produces better results, more efficiently. In addition to nuclear waste, the advanced centrifuge could separate particles from manufacturing waste or even desalinate seawater for agricultural use.

Editor’s note: This article was produced by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, one of the Energy Department’s 17 National Labs.