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Evaluation of Uranium Retention in Geological Minerals at the Sub-Micron Level

Project Description

Uranium (U) is a key contaminant at many nuclear sites and its remediation remains a significant issue, as its speciation and mobility is complex. Characterising the interaction of U with geological materials in site-specific conditions and future disposal scenarios is challenging. This PhD will provide data on U-mineral speciation on a microscopic level using fluorescence spectroscopy and 3D optical imaging (one and two photon fluorescence, phosphorescence and lifetime image mapping) using the intrinsic fluorescence of uranium. The work will develop an in-depth understanding of U-mineral interactions over a range of
geochemical conditions and modelling will be used to translate results to the macroscopic scale.
The main objectives of this PhD are to: Characterise uranyl speciation and sorption and retention mechanisms in a range of minerals representative of those present at nuclear sites at the sub micron level using 3D fluorescence imaging. Use the results to derive thermodynamic parameters for the uranyl-mineral interactions using parallel factor analysis in MATLAB and DFT computational analysis Apply this information to the refinement and validation of current speciation databases.

Contact for further Information:

Dr Louise Natrajan


group web pages:

Prof. Sam Shaw

Prof. Nikolas Kaltsoyannis

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry or a closely related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject is highly desirable and experience in f-element fluorescence spectroscopy is also desirable.

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year studentship funded by National Nuclear Laboratory and Nuclear Decomissioning Authority.

Restricted to UK/EU applicants with 3 years residency in the UK.

We expect the programme to start on 16th September 2019.


1.Fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy as tools for monitoring redox transformations of uranium in biological systems
D. L. Jones, M. B. Andrews, A. N. Swinburne, S. W. Botchway, A. D. Ward, J. R. Llyod, L. S. Natrajan, Chemical Science, 2015, 6, 5133-5138. DOI: 10.1039/C5SC00661A
2. U(VI) behaviour in hyperalkaline calcite systems
K. F. Smith, N. D. Bryan, A. N. Swinburne, P. Bots, S. Shaw, L. S. Natrajan, J. F. W. Mosselmans, F. R. Livens, K. Morris, Geochim Cosmochim Ac., 2014, 148, 343-359. DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.09.043
3. Redox and environmentally relevant aspects of actinide(IV) coordination chemistry
L.S. Natrajan, A. N. Swinburne, M. A. Andrews, S. Randall, S. L. Heath, Coord. Chem. Rev., 2014, 266, 171-193. DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2013.12.021
4. Imaging redox activity and Fe(II) at the microbe-mineral interface during Fe(III) reduction
H. F. Downie, J. P. Standerwick, L. Burgess, L. S. Natrajan, J. R. Lloyd, Research in Microbiology, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.resmic.2018.05.012

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