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09 Nov 2011



Small angle neutron scattering is used to probe microemulsion systems, in order to help develop methods for detecting hazardous radioisotopes emitted by the nuclear power industry.

Hydrophobic ligands selectively sequester ions and transport them to specific places within microemulsion systems for detection.

Nuclear power has played an important role in Britain’s history, and with plans to build 10 new facilities, it is set to play an equally important role in its future. There is a need to develop rapid, selective methods for the detection and speciation of transuranic radioisotopes (e.g. Np, Pu, Am, Cm) in solution, as these elements represent hazardous by-products of the nuclear power industry. 

In collaboration with Magnox Ltd we are developing microemulsion systems to speciate these radionuclides in liquid wastes, to determine not only the element type and concentration, but also its oxidation state. In essence, a range of water soluble complexing agents have been synthesised that display selectivity towards the radionuclides of interest. The binding of these agents to a radionuclide cation causes them to separate out within the microemulsion. The properties of the cations can then be studied. Small angle neutron scattering (SANS) is being used to probe the separation within the microemulsion system and to discover unique complexing agent – metal cation combinations.

IA Fallis, SJ Pope, PC Griffiths, A Paul (Cardiff University), RK Heenan (ISIS)

Research date: August 2011

Further Information

Contact: PC Griffiths,​