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Effect of background electrolyte composition on the formation of Th(IV) nanoparticles on mica (001)Neumann, J.; Qiu, C.; Hellebrandt, S.; Eng, P.; Skanthakumar, S.; Steppert, M.; Soderholm, L.; Stumpf, T.; Schmidt, M.ORC
Actinides are known to form nanoparticles (NP), which may enhance or decrease radionuclide mobility in the environment. Understanding these processes on the molecular level is therefore of particular interest for a reliable safety assessment for nuclear waste repositories. Previous results showed a strong and unusual influence of the background electrolyte composition on Th sorption on the mica (001) basal plane based on surface x-ray diffraction (SXD) data. Uptake was shown to be significantly lower (~0.04 Th/AUC; AUC = 46.72 Å², the area of the mica (001) unit cell) for NaClO4 solution compared to NaCl (0.4 Th/AUC). An exceptional high coverage was detected for LiClO4 (4.9 Th/AUC) and surprisingly intermediate sorption occurs for KClO4 (~0.1 Th/AUC) under otherwise identical solution conditions.[2,3] The measured Th coverage from LiClO4 medium far exceeds the amount needed for surface charge compensation (0.25 Th/AUC), which suggests the formation of Th NP. The mechanism of the reaction remains unclear, for instance whether the reaction occurs at the interface or in solution and if anion and cation effect occur independently. We applied SXD as well as electrospray-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ESI-TOF-MS) and in situ atomic force microscopy (AFM) to address these questions. ESI-TOF-MS measurements show no NP formation or other electrolyte influence in solution over a broad concentration range of Th in all media, which proofs the processes happen on the mica surface. From Cl- media higher coverages are found for LiCl (8.8 Th/AUC) and KCl (3.6 Th/AUC) compared to Na (0.4 Th/AUC), confirming the trend observed with perchlorates. All samples with Cl- electrolytes show higher coverages than the corresponding ClO4- samples, which confirms two independent effects for the electrolyte cation and anion. In situ AFM images show the Th-NP to have a variable lateral size and a height of a few nanometers. For higher Th(IV) concentrations the formation of Th-nanochains is observed. In the suggested mechanism the formation of Th NP occurs on the mica surface in a first step and the particles move along the surface in a second step to form band like structures of up to several hundred nanometer length. Formation of Thnanochains occurs at lower Th concentrations in the presence of LiCl (0.5 mM) compared to NaCl (1 mM). The findings suggest that the electrolyte cation influences oligomerization at the mineral-water-interface.
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Keywords: Sorption, Thorium, Nanoparticles, Surface X-ray Diffraction, Background Electrolyte
GDCh Fachgruppentagung Nuklearchemie, 25.-27.09.2019, Dresden, Deutschland