It was known nanometer sized clusters of plutonium oxide were the culprit, but no one had been able to study its structure or find a way to separate it from the groundwater.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Notre Dame, were able to use high-energy X-rays from the Argonne Advanced Photon Source to finally discover and study the structure of plutonium nanoclusters.
“When plutonium forms into the clusters, its chemistry is completely different and no one has really been able to assess what it is, how to model it or how to separate it Argonne senior chemist Lynda Soderholm said. “People have known about and tried to understand the nanoclusters, but it was the modern analytical techniques and the APS that allowed us understand what it is.”
The nanoclusters are made up of exactly 38 plutonium atoms and had almost no charge. Unlike stray plutonium ions, which carry a positive charge, they are not attracted to the electrons in plant life, minerals, etc. which stopped the ions’ progression in the ground water.
Models have been based on the free-plutonium model, creating discrepancies between what is expected and reality. Soderholm said that with knowledge of the structure, scientists can now create better models to account for not only free-roaming plutonium ions, but also the nanoclusters.
The clusters also are a problem for plutonium remediation. The free ions are relatively easy to separate out from groundwater, but the clusters are difficult to remove.
“As we learn more, we will be able to model the nanoclusters and figure out how to break them apart,” Soderholm said. “Once they are formed, they are very hard to get rid of.”
Soderholm said other experiments have shown some clusters with different numbers of plutonium atoms and she plans to examine -- together with her collaborators S. Skanthakumar, Richard Wilson and Peter Burns of Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division-- the unique electric and magnetic properties of the clusters.
Brock Cooper | EurekAlert!
'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels
18.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent sensors
14.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences