Richard Husar

Investigation into the Formation of Nanoparticles of Tetravalent Neptunium in Slightly Alkaline Aqueous Solution

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Kurzfassung in Englisch

Considering the worldwide growing discharge of minor actinides and the current need for geological disposal facilities for radioactive waste, this work provides a contribution to the safety case concerning Np transport if it would be released from deep repository sites and moving from alkaline cement conditions (near-field) to more neutral environmental conditions (far-field). The reducing conditions in a nuclear waste repository render neptunium tetravalent, which is assumed to be immobile in aqueous environment due to the low solubility solution of Np(IV). For tetravalent actinide nuclides, the most significant transport should occur via colloidal particles. This work demonstrates the formation of intrinsic neptunium dioxide nanocrystals and amorphous Np(IV) silica colloids under environmentally relevant conditions.

The dissociation of the initial soluble Np(IV) complex (i.e. [Np(IV)(CO3)5]6-) induces the intrinsic formation of nanocrystalline NpO2 in the solution phase. The resulting irregularly shaped nanocrystals with an average size of 4 nm exhibit a face-centered cubic (fcc), fluorite-type structure (space group ). The NCs tend to agglomerate under ambient conditions due to the weakly charged hydrodynamic surface at neutral pH (zetapotential ~0 mV). The formation of micron-sized agglomerates, composed of nanocrystals of 2-5 nm in size, and the subsequent precipitation cause immobilization of the major amount of Np(IV) in the Np carbonate system. Agglomeration of NpO2 nanocrystals in dependence on time was indicated by PCS and UV-vis absorption spectroscopy with the changes of baseline characteristics and absorption maximum at 742 nm.

Hitherto, unknown polynuclear species as intermediate species of NpO2 nanocrystal formation were isolated from solution and observed by HR-TEM. These polynuclear Np species appear as dimers, trimers and hexanuclear compounds in analogy with those reported for other actinides.

Intrinsic formation of NpO2 (fcc) nanocrystals under ambient environmental conditions is prevented by admixing silicic acid: amorphous Np(IV) silica colloids are formed when silicate is present in carbonate solution.

Herein, the initial molar ratio of Si to Np in solution lead to the formation of Np(IV) silica particles of different composition and size where Si content determines the structure and stability of resulting colloids. Implications for different electronic structures of Np(IV) in dependence on Si content in the solid phase are given by the shift of the absorption maximum at 742 nm characteristic for Np(IV) colloids, silica excess of 5 times the magnitude of Si to Np reveal a redshift up to 6 nm in the colloidal UV-vis spectrum. Precipitation of Np(IV) particles in the ternary system results in a different coordination sphere of Np(IV) compared to the binary system, and the incorporation of Si into internal structure of Np(IV) silica colloids in coffinite-like structure is confirmed by EXAFS. TEM confirms different kinds of particle morphologies in dependence on the silica content. Silica-poor systems reveal porous particles in the micron-range which consist of irregular cross-linked hydrolyzed Np(IV) silica compartments with pores <15 nm.

In contrast, long-term stabilized and silica-enriched systems are characterized by isolated particles with an average particle size of 45 nm. Agglomerates of such isolated Np(IV) silica particles appear as consolidated amorphous solids with a densely closed surface and exhibit no internal fractures. The latter mentioned morphology of Np(IV) silica particles might facilitate the migration behavior of Np(IV) in a stabilized colloidal form under environmental conditions. The silica-enriched particles with densely closed surface are long-term stabilized as colloidal dispersion (>1 year) due to repulsion effects caused by significant surface charge. Particles synthesized from Si/Np = 9/1 carry exclusively negative surface charge in nearly the whole pH range from pH 3 to pH 10 with zetapotential = (-) 5 to (-) 30 mV. The zeta potentials of all particle systems containing silica are significantly shifted to more negative values below pH 7 where the isoelectrical point shifts from pH = 8.0 to 2.6 effecting negative charge under ambient conditions which supports electrostatic stabilization of Np(IV) particles. Particle surface charge at the slipping plane, particle size and shape necessarily depend on the initial magnitude of Si content in solution during particle formation. Particular changes of the morphology and internal structure of different Np(IV) silica colloids by aging are indicated by TEM and XPS. The composition and the crystallinity state of the initially formed amorphous phases partially changed into well-ordered nanocrystalline units characterized with fcc structure.

The presence of silicate under conditions expected in a nuclear waste repository significantly influences the solubility of Np(IV) and provoke the stabilization of waterborne Np(IV) up to concentrations of 10-3 M, exceeding Np´s solubility limit by a factor of up 10.000.

Neptunium and silicate significantly interact with each other, and thereby changing their individual hydrolysis and polymerization behavior. Silicate prevents the intrinsic formation of NpO2 NCs in fcc-structure, and at the same time, Np(IV) prevents the polymerization of silicate. Both processes result in the formation of Np(IV) silica colloids which possibly influence the migration behavior and fate of Np in the waste repositories and surrounding environments. For tetravalent actinides in general, the most significant transport in the environment would occur by colloidal particles. Therefore, Np(IV) silica colloids could have a significant implication in the migration of Np, the important minor actinide in the waste repositories, via colloidal transport.

weitere Metadaten

Aktinide, Neptunium, Nanopartikel, Kolloide, Umweltchemie
Actinides, neptunium, nanoparticles, nanocrystals, environmental chemistry
DDC Klassifikation540
RVK KlassifikationVE 8007
HochschuleTechnische Universität Dresden
FakultätFakultät Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften
BetreuerProf. Dr. Thorsten Stumpf
GutachterProf. Dr. Thorsten Stumpf
Prof. Dr. Alexander Eychmüller
Tag d. Einreichung (bei der Fakultät)07.07.2015
Tag d. Verteidigung / Kolloquiums / Prüfung20.08.2015
Veröffentlichungsdatum (online)25.08.2015
persistente URNurn:nbn:de:bsz:14-qucosa-177381

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