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Detecting trace amounts of uranium in water

​The Captot heavy metal sensor, developed by the Iramis-LSI over the last ten years, could be used to detect traces of uranium in water. This would be a simple, rapid field solution to monitor the environment, for example during the cleanup and dismantling of nuclear facilities.
Published on 6 August 2020

Early warning sensors for monitoring mercury in water, Journal of Haz. Mat.
Bis[2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl] phosphate radiografted into track-etched PVDF for uranium (VI) determination by means of cathodic stripping voltammetry, Reac. & Func. Polym.

The Laboratoire des Solides Irradiés (LSI) in Palaiseau has developed a nanoporous membrane capable of selectively trapping metal ions in solution. These ions are passively adsorbed and form complexes with specific chemical compounds that are pre-grafted in the pores. The metal ions are then detected using an electrochemical voltammetry technique. This technique has already been applied successfully to a long list of metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, Zn, Sb and Se).

The nanopores are produced by irradiating a polymer membrane with heavy ions (at the GANIL center in Caen), after which chemical compounds are grafted onto these pores under electron beams. The researchers have now tested a chemical functionalization that targets uranyl (UO22+) ions. In particular, they found that the uranyl ions form real complexes with the grafted compound, and by measuring the photoluminescence they were able to determine a very low detection limit of 6 µg.l-1.

This limit can be further reduced by optimizing the complexation process. Another issue to be investigated is the impact of radiation on uranyl sequestration, in the context of analyzing a water sample that contains radioelements.

This work, which is of interest to companies such as Vinci and Total, was conducted in collaboration with the University of Maryland (USA).

Saclay Institute of Matter and Radiation (IRAMIS) 
University of Maryland (USA)

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