Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Gary Tepper


The focus of this research is on the optical measurement of uranyl in a solid matrix using fluorescence spectroscopy. Nanoporous silica-based materials were used to extract uranyl from contaminated soil and to enhance the fluorescence intensity and lifetime. The fluorescence lifetime and intensity of uranyl ions adsorbed on porous silica-based materials of varying pore size was measured as a function of pH and in the presence of fluoride. The feasibility of uranyl fluorescence detection on the top of soil by silica gel is carried out by four types of natural soil. The results show that the uranyl fluorescence intensity can be enhanced by approximately two orders of magnitude by the silica nanoporous matrix from pH 4-12 with the greatest enhancement occurring from pH 4-7. The enhanced fluorescence lifetime can be used in time-gated measurements to help minimize the influence of background environmental fluorophores. The pH and the fluoride variation causes different uranyl speciation and results in a peak shift in the fluorescence spectrum. The mechanism of the uranyl ion on the silica nanoporous matrix was studied through 15 different silica materials with different water content ratios and various concentrations of uranium on different silica structures. The result shows that the particle size, pore size, water content and uranyl concentration on silica surfaces are all important factors for optimizing the fluorescence intensity. The spacing between silica materials, either the pore inside materials or the space between particles, causes the variety of uranyl distribution on the material surface and changes the fluorescence performance. Also, X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) is used to identify the possible uranyl surface species on silica. The fluorescence emission spectra from silica materials and the XPS results are consistent with the presence of two different uranyl compounds. The specific surface area of silica materials plays an important role on uranyl adsorption mechanism. To further enhance the sensitivity, an optical ball lens was used to preferentially direct the fluorescence signal toward the excitation source in standoff measurements. The application of the ball lens was found to increase the detection distance up to 14 times.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2010

Included in

Engineering Commons