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Researchers at the Interfacial Dynamics in Radioactive Environments and Materials (IDREAM) Energy Frontier Research Center quantified transient penta-coordinated Al3+ species during the crystallization of gibbsite from hydrous aluminum gels in solutions of concentrated sodium hydroxide. The research shows that concentrated electrolytes in solution affect hydrogen bonding, ion interactions, and coordination geometries in currently unpredictable ways.
These mechanistic studies support the development of new process flow sheets to accelerate the processing of radioactive wastes at two Department of Energy sites. Further, the studies may provide less energy-intensive routes for industrial aluminum production.
Gibbsite - OH - Mineral - Resource - Aluminum
Gibbsite (α-Al(OH)3) is an important mineral resource for industrial aluminum production. It is also present in large quantities in the high-level radioactive waste tanks at U.S. Department of Energy sites in Washington state and South Carolina. Traditional processing for either aluminum production or radioactive waste treatment is an energy-intensive activity. Processing involves heating to facilitate dissolution of gibbsite in highly alkaline solutions of concentrated electrolytes. Heating is followed by cooling to encourage precipitation from these chemically extreme systems.
For radioactive waste treatment, the dissolution and precipitation steps are often quite slow. Why? In part, both processes involve changes in the coordination geometry of the...
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