Synthesis and testing of a novel soft donor organic extractant molecule for targeted soft metal extraction from aqueous phases Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/j098zd47s

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  • Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) resultant from the generation of nuclear power is a chemically and radiologically diverse system which is advantageous to chemically process prior to geologic disposal. Hydrometallurgy is the primary technology for chemical processing for light water reactor spent fuels, where spent fuel is dissolved in an acid for liquid based separations. The primary means for recovery of desired metals from the SNF solution is liquid-liquid extraction which is based on distribution (partitioning) of the metal ions between two immiscible phases based on thermodynamic favorability. One of the means of increasing this favorability is by designing extractant molecules to be either "harder" or "softer" bases, which will more preferentially extract harder or softer metal ions respectively. This technique is used in designing extractant molecules for targeted extraction as actinides are slightly softer than lanthanides, and precious metals produced in significant quantities from the fission process are especially soft metals. The work performed in this thesis involved the synthesis of a novel soft electron donor organic extractant molecule for testing of targeted soft metal extraction. The molecule synthesized was bis-dibutanethiolthiophosphinato-methane, or S6, a bidentate neutral extractant molecule with significant thiolysis for a softer electron environment. The synthesis technique was refined and the molecule composition and structure was confirmed by ¹H NMR, ³¹P NMR, and elemental analysis. Two metal groups, f-elements (actinides and lanthanides) and soft transition metals were tested for their extractability from nitric acid solutions into an S6 solution in n-dodecane. Aqueous solutions of nitric acid and n-dodecane as an organic diluent are typical liquid-liquid extraction conditions in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. As extraction experiments were performed with radiotracers, for the soft metal extraction experiment, a mixture of the selected metals was neutron-activated in the OSU TRIGA reactor, as was europium to create a lanthanide radiotracer. Actinides and lanthanides were not seen to effectively extract into the organic or form a precipitate at all, making their partitioning with this extractant seemingly ineffective. Through gamma spectroscopy of an irradiated metal solution post-extraction, it is seen that only silver and palladium preferentially complex in the mixed metal samples into an insoluble organic ligand, dropping out of solution. This effect was more pronounced at higher acid concentrations, but silver was seen to slightly extract to the organic phase at all acid concentrations as well. This testing has shown that the S6 extractant can be used to recover silver and palladium from a mixed metal aqueous solution, such as one resultant from advanced spent nuclear fuel reprocessing operations. This result shows promise for future development of sulfur based organophosphate ligands for targeted extraction of precious metals from solutions.
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