Solid State and Aqueous Behavior of Uranyl Peroxide Cage Clusters

by Kristi Lynn Pellegrini

Institution: University of Notre Dame
Department: Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: neutron diffraction; aggregation; nanoclusters; uranium compounds; aqueous solutions; small angle scattering; dynamic light scattering; static light scattering
Record ID: 2058834
Full text PDF: http://etd.nd.edu/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-02192015-145005/


Uranyl peroxide cage clusters include a large family of more than 50 published clusters of a variety of sizes, which can incorporate various ligands including pyrophosphate and oxalate. Previous studies have reported that uranyl clusters can be used as a method to separate uranium from a solid matrix, with potential applications in reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel. Because of the potential applications of these novel structures in an advanced nuclear fuel cycle and their likely presence in areas of contamination, it is important to understand their behavior in both solid state and aqueous systems, including complex environments where other ions are present. In this thesis, I examine the aqueous behavior of U24Pp12, as well as aqueous cluster systems with added mono-, di-, and trivalent cations. The resulting solutions were analyzed using dynamic light scattering and ultra-small angle X-ray scattering to evaluate the species in solution. Precipitates of these systems were analyzed using powder X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and Raman spectroscopy. The results of these analyses demonstrate the importance of cation size, charge, and concentration of added cations on the aqueous behavior of uranium macroions. Specifically, aggregates of various sizes and shapes form rapidly upon addition of cations, and in some cases these aggregates appear to precipitate into an X-ray amorphous material that still contains U24Pp12 clusters. In addition, I probe aggregation of U24Pp12 and U60, another uranyl peroxide cage cluster, in mixed solvent water-alcohol systems. The aggregation of uranyl clusters in water-alcohol systems is a result of hydrogen bonding with polar organic molecules and the reduction of the dielectric constant of the system. Studies of aggregation of uranyl clusters also allow for comparison between the newer uranyl polyoxometalate family and century-old transition metal polyoxometalates. To complement the solution studies of uranyl cage clusters, solid state analyses of U24Pp12 are presented, including single crystal X-ray diffraction and preliminary single crystal neutron diffraction. Solid state analyses are used to probe the complicated bonding environments between U24Pp12 and crystallized counterions, giving further insight into the importance of cluster protonation and counterions in uranyl cluster systems. The combination of solid state and solution techniques provides information about the complicated nature of uranyl peroxide nanoclusters, and insight towards future applications of clusters in the advanced nuclear fuel cycle and the environment.