Student Research

Synthesis of Gadolinium (III) Catecholates for Lanthanide Separations

Nuclear power now provides 11% of the world's electricity and is expected to be the main alternative energy in the near future. The process is highly efficient, but the fuel rod efficiency could be improved. During fission of the fuel rod, lower- mass elements including lanthanides are produced. The separation of lanthanides from actinides would improve energy generation and increase the lifespan of the fuel rod. Separation is challenging because of similar chemical properties of lanthanides and actinides, so there is interest in developing new separation methods. This work investigated the effects of redox-active ligands bound to lanthanides to tailor electronic properties for separation. The synthetic and structural chemistry of gadolinium and holmium catecholates were previously reported, but were synthesized under argon and with water as a solvent. For this research, the synthesis of gadolinium catecholates was tested under oxygen (tabletop) or under anaerobic conditions (argon) and with varying the solvent from water to methanol. Toluene-3,4-dithiol and benzene dithiol were also investigated as potential ligands. Initial findings indicated that different products were synthesized when the reaction was carried under air as opposed to argon.