APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Nuclear energy or nuclear fuel reprocessing plants
- Pharmaceutical isotope production
- Pharmaceutical companies using lanthanide or actinide drugs
- Chemical industry
- Greater separation efficacy
- Robust chelators
- Highly versatile method
- Simplified process
Berkeley Lab researchers Rebecca Abergel and Gauthier Deblonde have developed a technology to separate or purify metal ions, specifically targeting the separation of lanthanides from actinides and the separation of the element actinium (Ac3+) from both lanthanides and actinides. In this Berkeley Lab invention, part of a suite of HOPO-based separations, ligands based on the binding units 1,2-HOPO selectively bind or release targeted elements in aqueous media.
Purified Ac3+ is emerging as a radioactive source for cancer treatments. In addition, the separation and purification of trivalent lanthanide ions (Ln3+) and trivalent actinide ions (An3+) is significant to the development of nuclear energy, as these ions are present in nuclear spent fuels from both civilian and military sources. An3+ leads to excess generation of radiation heat; therefore, removing An3+ from nuclear waste would facilitate long-term storage. Separating Ln3+ and An3+ would also yield closed nuclear fuel cycles, enabling less toxic, next generation nuclear reactors.
The separation of Ln3+ from An3+ has been very challenging because these two classes of metal ions exhibit similar chemical properties. Experimental results from Berkeley Lab demonstrate that ligands based on 1,2-HOPO can selectively bind or release elements of interest, e.g., Ac3+, Am3+, Sc3+, Gd3+, in aqueous media. In fact, the selectivity of the HOPO ligands is usually superior to that of the chelators currently used for this purpose, such as diethylenetriamine-pentaacetic acid (DTPA). The methods of production of Ac3+ isotopes generate several Ln3+ fission products in addition to the initial material comprised of thorium (Th4+).
Other Ac3+ purification protocols involve several chromatographic steps that require different chemical media. In contrast, the Berkeley Lab technology utilizes chelators that exhibit robustness and high separation efficacy and, thus, enables better performance, fewer steps, and greater reliability.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
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