American Chemical Society
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Oligomer Formation Effects on the Separation of Trivalent Lanthanide Fission Products

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-07-10, 20:43 authored by Lauren E. Walker, Scott L. Heath, Jun Jiang, Louise S. Natrajan, Francis R. Livens
The assessment of trivalent lanthanide yields from the fission of uranium-235 is currently achieved using LN (LaNthanide) resin, di­(2-ethylhexyl)­orthophosphoric acid immobilized on a solid support. However, coelution of lighter lanthanides into terbium (Tb3+) fractions remains a significant problem in recovery of analytically pure fractions. In order to understand how the separation of trivalent lanthanides and yttrium (Ln3+) with LN resin proceeds and how to improve it, their speciation with the organic extractant HDEHP must be fully understood under aqueous conditions. A comprehensive luminescence analysis of aqueous solutions of Ln3+ in contact with HDEHP, along with infrared spectroscopy, elemental combustion analysis, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), and mass spectrometry, was used to indicate that an intermediate species is responsible for the coelution; where similar Ln3+ centers (e.g., Eu3+ and Tb3+) are bridged by the O–P–O moiety of deprotonated HDEHP to form large heteronuclear oligomeric structures with the general formula [Ln2(DEHP)6]n. Energy transfer from Tb3+ to Eu3+ in this structure confirms that lanthanide centers are within 10 Å and was used to propose that the oligomeric [Ln2(DEHP)6]n structure is formed rather than a dimeric Ln2(DEHP)6 structure. The effect of this speciation on LN resin column elution is investigated using luminescence spectroscopy, confirming that the oligomeric [Ln2(DEHP)6]n species could disrupt regular elution behavior and cause the problematic bleeding of lighter lanthanides (Sm3+ and Eu3+) into Tb3+ fractions. Resin luminescence measurements were used to propose that the bleeding of the organic extractant HDEHP from its solid support causes the formation of the disruptive oligometallic species.