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Solvent-Extraction Research Provides Basis for Commercialization of Sensitive Analytical Methodology

Results of fundamental research on selective extractants for metal ions has led to commercialization of radioanalytical technology and services by East Tennessee Radiometric Analytical Chemicals, Inc. (ETRAC). This firm manufactures liquid-scintillation "cocktails" and standards for the analysis of trace radionuclides in environmental, process-waste-stream, and laboratory samples. Fundamental studies at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s to late 1980s have revealed a number of highly selective extractants for separating metal ions from complex aqueous media. Examples of such extractants include large cyclic compounds, called crown ethers, that bind metal ions such as cesium, strontium, and radium. Other extractants permit difficult separations of uranium, thorium, plutonium, polonium, and a range of other radionuclides. Such extractants have the ability to separate these metals in trace quantities, even from complex mixtures containing high concentrations of competing species. The liquid-scintillation "cocktails", also called extractive scintillators, are organic solvents containing selective extractants together with compounds that emit detectable light pulses upon absorbing radioactive decay energy. Commercialization of this technology has led to improved analyses in over a hundred industrial, government, and academic laboratories in the U.S. and around the world.

Chemical Separations Group R & D Projects

Provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Chemical Sciences Division
Rev:   October 20, 2005