ChEMS Assistant Professor Receives Nuclear Energy University Programs Award

Mikael Nilsson receives award from the U.S. Department of Energy

Assistant Professor Mikael Nilsson, Ph.D., Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, has received a Research and Development Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP).

Nilsson’s proposal entitledMicroemulsions and Aggregation Formation in Extraction Processes for Used Nuclear Fuel: Thermodynamic and Structural Studies”is related to chemical processing of used nuclear fuel. The project goal is to study the formation of chemical aggregates that may cause upsets in the process as quoted from the award winning proposal:

"Advanced nuclear fuel cycles rely heavily on the successful chemical separation of various elements in used fuels. Numerous solvent extraction processes have been developed for the recovery and purification of metal ions from this material. However, the predictability of process operations has been challenged by the lack of a fundamental understanding of the chemical interactions in several of these separation systems. The goal of the project is to derive the fundamental principles of solvation and self-organization in non-aqueous solutions as the experimental conditions of the organic solution become increasingly disposed towards aggregation.The proposed work will blend the thermodynamic, structural, and theoretical investigations of evolving solute architectures to enhance our understanding of the supramolecular chemistry governing aggregate formation. The relationships to be established between the structures and the energetics of the molecular interactions will outline new theoretical descriptions of metal ion transport phenomena between aqueous environments and highly organized non-aqueous media."


The project will run for three years with a total budget of $1 million. Nilsson is the primary investigator with collaborations from Peter R. Zalupski of the Idaho National Lab and Mark R. Antonio of the Argonne National Lab. It is one of 51 projects to receive a research grant aimed at developing cutting-edge nuclear energy technologies and training and educating the next generation of leaders in the U.S. nuclear industry.The projects are led by 31 U.S. universities in more than 20 states. Other universities, industry leaders, and national laboratories will serve as collaborators and research partners. The projects selected for an award are from four nuclear energy research fields including fuel cycle research and development; reactor concepts research, development and demonstration; nuclear energy advanced modeling and simulation; and transformative research.