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Development and Testing of Diglycolamide Functionalized Mesoporous Silica for Sorption of Trivalent Actinides and Lanthanides

Shusterman, Jennifer A., Mason, Harris E., Bowers, Jon, Bruchet, Anthony, Uribe, Eva C., Kersting, Annie B., Nitsche, Heino
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2015 v.7 no.37 pp. 20591-20599
americium, europium, hydrochloric acid, ligands, nitric acid, nuclear fuels, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, pH, porous media, silica, sorption, stable isotopes, surface area, wastes
Sequestration of trivalent actinides and lanthanides present in used nuclear fuel and legacy wastes is necessary for appropriate long-term stewardship of these metals, particularly to prevent their release into the environment. Organically modified mesoporous silica is an efficient material for recovery and potential subsequent separation of actinides and lanthanides because of its high surface area, tunable ligand selection, and chemically robust substrate. We have synthesized the first novel hybrid material composed of SBA-15 type mesoporous silica functionalized with diglycolamide ligands (DGA-SBA). Because of the high surface area substrate, the DGA-SBA was found to have the highest Eu capacity reported so far in the literature of all DGA solid-phase extractants. The sorption behavior of europium and americium on DGA-SBA in nitric and hydrochloric acid media was tested in batch contact experiments. DGA-SBA was found to have high sorption of Am and Eu in pH 1, 1 M, and 3 M nitric and hydrochloric acid concentrations, which makes it promising for sequestration of these metals from used nuclear fuel or legacy waste. The kinetics of Eu sorption were found to be two times slower than that for Am in 1 M HNO₃. Additionally, the short-term susceptibility of DGA-SBA to degradation in the presence of acid was probed using ²⁹Si and ¹³C solid-state NMR spectroscopy. The material was found to be relatively stable under these conditions, with the ligand remaining intact after 24 h of contact with 1 M HNO₃, an important consideration in use of the DGA-SBA as an extractant from acidic media.