Argonne scaled up the recycling of isotope, Mo-99

The laboratory’s new 3D printing approach makes its recycling method — pioneered in 2015 by Mo-99 program manager Peter Tkac (left) and others — faster, more reliable, and more cost effective. Also shown: Peter Kozak (center) and Brian Saboriendo. Not shown: Alex Brown. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) is an important medical isotope used to help radiologists detect heart disease, bone decay and some types of hard-to-find cancers. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a novel way to squeeze even more out of it.

Enriched molybdenum, from which Mo-99 can be made, is expensive, costing about USD1,000 per gram. Note that Mo-99 decays into technetium-99m, which radiologists then use to develop the actual pharmaceuticals used in medical procedures.

For the first time in the U.S., Argonne scientists have scaled up the recycling of isotopically enriched molybdenum, Mo-98 or 100, to engineering scale using new 3D printed parts. This new approach makes the laboratory’s recycling method faster, more reliable and more cost-effective.

The new process effectively separated the enriched molybdenum from potassium and other contaminants.