Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Gary Tepper


This research investigated parameters that can affect the use of nanoporous silica gel as a media for accumulating a detectable amount of uranium. The unique fluorescence of the Uranyl (UO22+) ion was used to evaluate the transport kinetics and accumulation within silica gel in a static fluid and under pressure driven flow. The addition of fluid flow decreased the time constant from on the order of an hour to approximately 2s with a very low fluid velocity of 0.36cm/s. The 0.36cm/s fluid velocity was found to be the critical velocity above which there was no gain in time constant. A table top instrument was developed that can detect trace amounts of uranium in solution. The table top instrument was used to investigate how the time constant depends on the uranyl concentration, which led to the development of a new time-based method for quantifying the uranyl concentration. The time-based method of detection uses a preset threshold and, based on the time it takes to reach that threshold, the concentration in the water sample can be determined. The lifetime of uranyl in complex with silica increased to approximately 120us, allowing for gated detection and background discrimination. In addition to the fluorescent contaminants, competing cations were tested to determine how they affect the fluorescence and transport kinetics of the uranyl. The cations tested were Mn2+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, and Li+. The result shows that within the natural concentrations, Mg2+, Na+, and K+ did quench the fluorescent of the uranyl ions by collision quenching. The time constant was also examined in the presence of each cation and showed that Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, and K+ decreased the adsorption time constant. Future studies in this area should be directed toward the development of a portable version of the instrument.


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