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Development of microfluidic devices to support actinide analysis

Project Description

The primary objective of the project is to develop methods for the analysis of actinide materials using minimal sample amounts and generating the lowest volumes of radioactive wastes requiring costly treatment and disposal processes. This offers improvements in the safety of actinide analysis, and has the potential to reduce the costs associated with the processing and storage of waste materials.
Microfluidic (‘Lab on a Chip’) devices exploit advances in small scale device fabrication and flow chemistry to achieve desired chemical outcomes using much smaller sample sizes than those achieved with standard laboratory methodologies. Chemical mixing occurs more rapidly at the microscale, and process temperatures can be controlled much more precisely due to the small sample volumes required. Analytical instruments (spectrometers, electrochemical detectors etc.) can be incorporated into the chips to perform detection and quantification in situ, or integrated to the output.
Reduction in sample size is a key benefit when working with hazardous materials such as plutonium, as it leads to improved operator safety and reduced waste generation. As options for a new analysis facilities at AWE are currently being investigated, there is an opportunity to assess the viability of automated microfluidic techniques, and incorporate them into a future capability.
Very little work has been performed with true microfluidic devices for actinides chemistry and the work is mainly focussed on extraction of actinides from solutions for waste processing, with significant effort being expended at Los Alamos National Laboratory in this area.
This project will also assess the viability of integrating a wider range of actinide processes into microfluidic devices, such as assay of the matrix material and spectrophotometry
The PhD student will be predominantly based at the University of Manchester in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science which possesses capabilities in both the engineering of microfluidic systems and the chemistry of radioactive materials linking with the Dalton Nuclear Institute and the Centre for Radiochemistry Research. The studentship is well supported with a financial top-up from AWE allocated to consumables, international conference travel and research visits to AWE laboratories (Aldermaston, UK) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico, USA). AWE will also provide supervision of the project providing direct input on industrial requirements and experience working in the nuclear sector.

Applicants need at least a 2.1 honours degree in chemistry, analytical science, chemical engineering, materials science or similar discipline. The ability to meet the security clearance requirements in order to work at UK nuclear licensed sites.

Funding Notes

Direct funding for this project is provided by the EPSRC iCASE with industrial contribution from AWE. Eligibility is restricted to UK applicants only.

Related Subjects

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?
Chemical Engineering

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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