Berkeley Lab

From new uses for radioactive elements to carbon nanotube forests

By Keiko Munechika

The afternoon session kicked off Rebecca Abergel, who is a staff scientist at Chemical Sciences Division at LBNL. Actinides are radioactive materials at the very bottom of the periodic period. Prof. Abergel discussed how fundamental understanding of bonding chemistry between actinides elements and selective ligands are much needed for the development of new separation strategies for the nuclear fuel cycle, for decontamination after a nuclear accident or the use of radio-isotopes for new cancer treatments. Being highly radioactive, the available sample amount is TINY! NANO-gram, which imposes practical challenges. Prof. Abergel discussed various creative solutions such as using protein crystallography to overcome this limitation. In addition, advanced structural characterization techniques based on X-ray absorption, X-ray diffraction, and electron microscopy helped to work with just a small amount of sample to derive coordination trends.

The talk was followed by B-N coordination chemistry talk by Prof. Lei Fang from Texas A&M University.  Professor Fang talked about the introduction of B←N coordination — isoelectronic to C—C single bond — into π-systems to impart exotic redox and electrochromic properties into conjugated organic materials.  Once the material is developed, applications in multi-color and IR electrochromic windows becomes possible.

Eric Meshot from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discussed advanced metrology methods to systematically understand growth behavior of single-wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) “forests”. Meshot team works to optimize nanoforest growth on a wafer scale. The team developed novel metrology to elucidate the SWCNT forest growth for future industrial-scale production. Carbon nanotubes are coming back!