UNLV graduate student Edward Mausolf took first place in a national U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) student competition for his investigation into the behavior of a radioactive byproduct of nuclear energy.
The Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research competition awards college students from across the nation for outstanding fuel-cycle-relevant research publications. Mausolf, a Ph.D. student in radiochemistry, took top prize in the category of Waste Forms for a unique analysis of the radioactive element technetium, a common product from nuclear fission.
Mausolf led a UNLV team that explained how a form of technetium behaves in an acidic solution when it interacts with the compound sodium borohydride. The study was one of the first attempts to convert technetium into a preferred metal form directly using a solution, which would eliminate significant physical handling needed to isolate and effectively store the radioactive element.
Though the process did not convert the technetium directly to a metal form, it did produce a form of technetium that had not yet been investigated and which could be easily manipulated using other chemical techniques developed in the lab.
"Few students get to work with the quantity and type of activity that we are able to with UNLV's radiochemistry program," said Mausolf. "Our study shows that this type of work and advancements on this research will drive innovation. I am fortunate to be a member of such a great program and dedicated team at UNLV."
UNLV is one of the few universities in the country that can perform research with technetium. The radiochemistry program's ability to work with radioelements is the basis for numerous collaborations with DOE laboratories, universities, and international laboratories.
"The DOE has a real desire to solve the energy problems we'll face in the future," said Mausolf, who is currently interning with nuclear energy company TerraPower in Seattle. "By sponsoring this program, they have allowed me the opportunity to discuss real world problems associated with how we produce energy."
Mausolf will present the winning publication during the American Nuclear Society Winter meeting, participate in an Innovators' Forum, and attend the DOE Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies Annual Meeting.
"Spectroscopic and structural characterization of reduced technetium species in acetate media" was published in the Feb. 2011 issue of the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry. Collaborating with Mausolf on the study were Janelle Droessler, radiochemistry graduate student; Ken Czerwinski, professor and radiochemistry program director; and Frederic Poineau, research professor with the department of chemistry. Contact Mausolf for a copy of the paper.
For more information on the Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research Awards program, visit fuelcycleinnovations.org