Coat the Fuel Pellet Challenge
Coat the Fuel Pellet Challenge

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You can find coatings everywhere –from the non-stick coating on a frying pan, to the epoxy coating inside a metal can of vegetables, to the coating on a tablet screen that keeps your oily fingerprints away. Scientists and engineers design coatings, and the ways to apply them. They choose or invent coatings that have chemical properties that are useful for solving the problem at hand, for example, to protect an item from water, chemicals, heat, or even air. Argonne scientists and engineers develop coatings for a variety of uses, including materials for electronics or renewable energy sources. One important use of coatings is to protect pellets of nuclear fuel from leaking in the extreme environment inside a nuclear reactor. For this problem, scientists want to develop a coating where energy can efficiently escape from the fuel pellet to make electricity but keep the fuel itself inside. In this activity, you will be the nuclear scientist at home. You will design a coating that can help protect a pellet-shaped object (candy) from water, heat, and microwave radiation in your kitchen!


Argonne National Laboratory

Evidence: Photo

Badge Type: knowledge

Expected Duration: hours


  1. In order to earn this badge, the learner must submit a photo of their completed "Properties of Kitchen Ingredients" and "My Coatings" data tables.
  • Test badge


  • Coat the Fuel Pellet Challenge

    Argonne scientists have discovered a new way to coat nuclear materials that are used to help create electricity in nuclear power stations. Nuclear reactors are devices for creating a nuclear chain reaction to generate electricity. Inside an operating nuclear reactor, the environment is extreme. Reactor components are exposed to a combination of intense radiation (energy that can be harmful) and heat as well as coolant. That's why, in order to operate reactors safely, scientists need to design their components with materials that can withstand these conditions. Inside nuclear reactors, the radioactive fuel provides the energy that is turned into electricity. Coating these components can help improve the operation and safety of nuclear reactors. Today, you will make your own coatings with materials from around your house.

  • Build Your Own Battery Challenge

    From toys and equipment to cars and renewable energy-batteries are everywhere! Batteries have come a long way since Alessandro Volta made the first true battery in 1800. Overtime batteries have advanced with technology and evolved for our ever-changing needs. Argonne scientists and engineers are working together to develop the next generation of cheaper, more powerful batteries. In this activity, you will build a homemade battery and experiment with different materials to optimize your battery—just like Argonne researchers!

  • Bioenergy Knowledge Badge

    Do you want to learn about bioenergy? Bioenergy is one of many diverse resources available to help meet our demand for energy! You will explore the upcycling of existing nonrenewable resources or at least one of the ways that renewable energy derived from biomass can produce transportation fuels, heat, electricity, or products!