Condition: Green Chemistry: Radiolytic Studies of Ionic Liquids in Service of Security and the Environment

Chemist James Wishart and Postdoctoral Research Associate Alison Funston.

  This project involves the study of radiation-induced reactions in ionic liquids (ILs), a rapidly expanding family of condensed-phase media with important applications in nuclear fuel and waste processing, energy production, improving the efficiency and safety of industrial chemical processes, and pollution prevention. Ionic liquids are completely nonvolatile, noncombustible, highly conductive, recyclable and capable of dissolving a wide variety of materials. Using ILs to process radioactive materials can make them safer to handle and more secure against terrorism. For example, ionic liquids composed of thermal neutron poisons such as boron can dramatically improve the criticality safety margins of fissile materials during processing. Although some groups have begun to study the radiation stability of ILs through product studies, the picosecond BNL Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF) is particularly well suited to measure the reactivity of the primary radiation products. Understanding the primary steps of IL radiolysis is critical for the design of radiation-stable ILs for nuclear fuel reprocessing and environmental remediation, because it will reveal radiolytic degradation pathways and ways to prevent them. The second goal of the project is to use our understanding of primary species chemistry to conduct pulse radiolysis studies of general chemical reactivity in ILs, which will aid in the development of energy production, chemical industry and environmental applications.

   This project is a forefront topic in that: 1) the field of room-temperature ionic liquids is expanding rapidly and new types of ILs are being reported monthly, and 2) radiolysis of lLs is virtually unexplored although the importance of such knowledge for energy and national security is clear. BNL has a premiere facility (LEAF) which can provide unique capabilities for studying the radiolysis of ILs.

This program is supported by a Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Grant (LDRD). We acknowledge Brookhaven National Laboratory for this support.

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Last Modified: June 28, 2012