Lanthanide Speciation in Potential SANEX and GANEX Actinide/ Lanthanide Separations Using Tetra-N-Donor Extractants

Daniel Whittaker, Tamara Griffiths, Madeleine Helliwell, Adam Swinburne, Louise Natrajan, Frank Lewis, Laurence Harwood, Stephen Parry, Clint Sharrad

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Lanthanide(III) complexes with N-donor extractants, which exhibit the potential for the separation of minor actinides from lanthanides in the management of spent nuclear fuel, have been directly synthesized and characterized in both solution and solid states. Crystal structures of the Pr3+, Eu3+, Tb3+, and Yb3+ complexes of 2,9-bis(5,5,8,8-tetramethyl-5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-1,2,4-benzotriazin-3-yl)-1,10-phenanthroline (CyMe4-BTPhen) and the Pr3+, Eu3+, and Tb3+ complexes of 6,6′-bis(5,5,8,8-tetramethyl-5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-1,2,4-benzotriazin-3-yl)-2,2′-bypyridine (CyMe4-BTBP) were obtained. The majority of these structures displayed coordination of two of the tetra-N-donor ligands to each Ln3+ ion, even when in some cases the complexations were performed with equimolar amounts of lanthanide and N-donor ligand. The structures showed that generally the lighter lanthanides had their coordination spheres completed by a bidentate nitrate ion, giving a 2+ charged complex cation, whereas the structures of the heavier lanthanides displayed tricationic complex species with a single water molecule completing their coordination environments. Electronic absorption spectroscopic titrations showed formation of the 1:2 Ln3+/LN4‑donor species (Ln = Pr3+, Eu3+, Tb3+) in methanol when the N-donor ligand was in excess. When the Ln3+ ion was in excess, evidence for formation of a 1:1 Ln3+/LN4‑donor complex species was observed. Luminescent lifetime studies of mixtures of Eu3+ with excess CyMe4-BTBP and CyMe4-BTPhen in methanol indicated that the nitrate-coordinated species is dominant in solution. X-ray absorption spectra of Eu3+ and Tb3+ species, formed by extraction from an acidic aqueous phase into an organic solution consisting of excess N-donor extractant in pure cyclohexanone or 30% tri-n-butyl phosphate (TBP) in cyclohexanone, were obtained. The presence of TBP in the organic phase did not alter lanthanide speciation. Extended X-ray absorption fine structure data from these spectra were fitted using chemical models established by crystallography and solution spectroscopy and showed the dominant lanthanide species in the bulk organic phase was a 1:2 Ln3+/LN‑donor species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3429-3444
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


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