From nuclear forensics to medical isotopes: membranes enable rapid separations
Abstract: Resin-based chromatography has long been the workhorse for radiochemical separations in applications such as medical isotope production, new element discovery and nuclear forensics. While these materials have notable advantages over other radioanalytical purification techniques, like solvent extraction, the rate of transport of the desired radioisotope to the binding sites in the column is limited by diffusion. Practically, diffusion limitations lead to low operational flowrates to achieve product capture and high elution volumes to collect the product—both of which contribute to the inefficiency of the purification process. In nuclear forensics, long purification times extend the nuclear forensics timeline allowing more time to pass before law enforcement can apprehend a suspect. In nuclear medicine, long purification times for short-lived isotopes lead to increased product loss due to radioactive decay.
In this talk, we will discuss our group’s efforts to synthesize membrane adsorbers—a scalable, high-throughput alternative to extractive resins. These materials contain micropores coated with covalently bound, nano-thin layer of polymer brushes that contain metal binding sites. In contrast to transport in resins, mass transport in membrane adsorbers is governed by convective flow through the pore network; therefore, product recovery is not a function of flowrate. Examples will include a sample preparation method for alpha spectroscopy (nuclear forensics) and purification process for a targeted cancer treatment (medical isotopes).
Bio: Christine Duval is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Professor Duval’s research group develops advanced materials (resins and membranes) for highly selective separations. These materials have applications in nuclear forensics, medical isotope purification and environmental remediation. Duval received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut in 2011 and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Clemson University in 2017. Outside of academics, she was a business strategist at the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a DOE Scholar at the US Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence in the Nuclear Materials Information Program. In 2020 she received the DOE Early Career Research Award from the Isotope Program in the Office of Nuclear Physics.