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Author ORCID ID is 0000000265016594
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  1. Fundamental understanding of the selective recognition and separation of f-block metal ions by chelating agents is of crucial importance for advancing sustainable energy systems. Current investigations in this area are mostly focused on the study of inner-sphere interactions between metal ions and donor groups of ligands, while the effects on the selectivity resulting from molecular interactions in the outer-sphere region have been largely overlooked. Herein, we explore the fundamental origins of the selectivity of the solvating extractant N,N,N',N'-tetraoctyl diglycolamide (TODGA) for adjacent lanthanides in a liquid–liquid extraction system, which is of relevance to nuclear fuel reprocessing and rare-earth refining technologies.more » Complementary investigations integrating distribution studies, quantum mechanical calculations, and classical molecular dynamics simulations establish a relationship between coextracted water and lanthanide extraction by TODGA across the series, pointing to the importance of the hydrogen-bonding interactions between outer-sphere nitrate ions and water clusters in a nonpolar environment. Lastly, our findings have significant implications for the design of novel efficient separation systems and processes, emphasizing the importance of tuning both inner- and outer-sphere interactions to obtain total control over selectivity in the biphasic extraction of lanthanides.« less
  2. Nuclear power is a relatively carbon-free energy source that has the capacity to be utilized today in an effort to stem the tides of global warming. The growing demand for nuclear energy, however, could put significant strain on our uranium ore resources, and the mining activities utilized to extract that ore can leave behind long-term environmental damage. A potential solution to enhance the supply of uranium fuel is to recover uranium from seawater using amidoximated adsorbent fibers. This technology has been studied for decades but is currently plagued by the material’s relatively poor selectivity of uranium over its main competitormore » vanadium. In this work, we investigate the binding schemes between uranium, vanadium, and the amidoxime functional groups on the adsorbent surface. Using quantum chemical methods, binding strengths are approximated for a set of complexation reactions between uranium and vanadium with amidoxime functionalities. Those approximations are then coupled with a comprehensive aqueous adsorption model developed in this work to simulate the adsorption of uranium and vanadium under laboratory conditions. Experimental adsorption studies with uranium and vanadium over a wide pH range are performed, and the data collected are compared against simulation results to validate the model. It was found that coupling ab initio calculations with process level adsorption modeling provides accurate predictions of the adsorption capacity and selectivity of the sorbent materials. Furthermore, this work demonstrates that this multiscale modeling paradigm could be utilized to aid in the selection of superior ligands or ligand compositions for the selective capture of metal ions. Furthermore, this first-principles integrated modeling approach opens the door to the in silico design of next-generation adsorbents with potentially superior efficiency and selectivity for uranium over vanadium in seawater.« less
  3. The durability of anion-exchange membranes (AEMs) in alkaline fuel cells is largely determined by the stability of anion-exchange groups. Despite continuous research efforts, the commonly employed cations still have limited stability against hydroxide that can act as a strong base and nucleophile. This work is concerned with base-catalyzed degradation of organic cations initiated by proton abstraction to form reactive ylides or carbenes. We report on the performance of 24 methods combining density functional theory and electronic structure methods with implicit solvation calculations for predicting pK a values of organic cations in water and DMSO. The most accurate computational protocols aremore » obtained using a combination of M06-2X/6-311++G** with the SMD solvation model for water (the mean absolute error of 0.4 pK a units) and B3LYP/aug-cc-pVTZ with the IEFPCM solvation model for DMSO (the mean absolute error of 1.4 pK a units). The aqueous pK a calculation protocol is cross-validated against the experimental C–H acidity constants outside the conventional range of 0–14 pK a values. In conclusion, this study rationalizes alkaline degradation of imidazolium cations with C2-alkyl substituents and provides a theoretical scale of C–H acidity for potential anion-exchange groups in AEMs.« less
  4. Amidoxime-functionalized polymeric adsorbents are the current state-of-the-art materials for collecting uranium (U) from seawater. However, marine tests show that vanadium (V) is preferentially extracted over U and many other cations. Here in this paper, we report a complementary and comprehensive investigation integrating ab initio simulations with thermochemical titrations and XAFS spectroscopy to understand the unusually strong and selective binding of V by polyamidoximes. While the open-chain amidoxime functionalities do not bind V, the cyclic imide-dioxime group of the adsorbent forms a peculiar non-oxido V 5+ complex, exhibiting the highest stability constant value ever observed for the V 5+ species. XAFSmore » analysis of adsorbents following deployment in environmental seawater confirms V binding solely by the imide-dioximes. Our fundamental findings offer not only guidance for future optimization of selectivity in amidoxime-based sorbent materials, but may also afford insight to understanding the extensive accumulation of V in some marine organisms.« less
  5. A simple bidentate anion receptor, shown previously to adopt a rigid pseudobicyclic conformation while binding anions in the solid state, selectively binds sulfate in aqueous solutions with log K 1 and log K 2 values of 3.78 ± 0.12 M-1 and 2.10 ± 0.23 M-1, respectively. This anion receptor has little to no affinity for nitrate and chloride in the same solutions. A lipophilic derivative was synthesized in four steps to yield an extractant that is capable of partitioning sulfate into 1,2 dichloroethane from water in the presence of large excesses of chloride. This extractant demonstrated D values as highmore » as 2.5 with only 30 mM of anion receptor.« less
  6. The role of solvent in molecular recognition systems is under-researched and often ignored, especially when the solvent is considered “non-interacting”. This study concerns the role of toluene solvent in cesium(I) recognition by calix[4]pyrrole. We show that π-donor interactions bind toluene molecules onto the open face of the cation-receptor complex, thus “capping the calix.” As a result, by characterizing this unusual aromatically-saturated complex, we show how “non-interacting” aromatic solvents can directly coordinate receptor-bound cations and thus influence recognition.
  7. Here, we report a new family of preorganized bislactam- 1,10-phenanthroline (BLPhen) complexants that possess both hard and soft donor atoms within a convergent cavity and show unprecedented extraction strength for the trivalent fblock metal ions. BLPhen ligands with saturated and unsaturated δ-lactam rings have notable differences in their affinity and selectivity for Am(III) over Eu(III), with the latter being the most selective mixed N,O-donor extractant of Am(III) reported to date. Saturated BLPhen was crystallized with five Ln(III) nitrates to form charge-neutral 1:1 complexes in the solid state. DFT calculations further elaborate on the variety of effects that dictate the performancemore » of these preorganized compounds.« less
  8. Bastnäsite, a fluoro-carbonate mineral, is the single largest mineral source of light rare earth elements (REE), La, Ce and Nd. Enhancing the efficiency of separation of the mineral from gangue through froth flotation is the first step towards meeting an ever increasing demand for REE. To design and evaluate collector molecules that selectively bind to bastnäsite, a fundamental understanding of the structure and surface properties of bastnäsite is essential. In our earlier work (J Phys Chem C, 2016, 120, 16767), we carried out an extensive study of the structure, surface stability and water adsorption energies of La-bastnäsite. Here in thismore » work, we make a comparative study of the surface properties of Ce-bastnäsite, La-bastnäsite, and calcite using a combination of density functional theory (DFT) and water adsorption calorimetry. Spin polarized DFT+U calculations show that the exchange interaction between the electrons in Ce 4f orbitals is negligible and that these orbitals do not participate in bonding with the oxygen atom of the adsorbed water molecule. In agreement with calorimetry, DFT calculations predict larger surface energies and stronger water adsorption energies on Ce-bastnäsite than on La-bastnäsite. The order of stabilities for stoichiometric surfaces is as follows: [100] > [101] > [102] > [0001] > [112] > [104] and the most favorable adsorption sites for water molecules are the same as for La-bastnäsite. In agreement with water adsorption calorimetry, at low coverage water molecules are strongly stabilized via coordination to the surface Ce3+ ions, whereas at higher coverage they are adsorbed less strongly via hydrogen bonding interaction with the surface anions. Lastly, due to similar water adsorption energies on bastnäsite [101] and calcite [104] surfaces, the design of collector molecules that selectively bind to bastnäsite over calcite must exploit the structural differences in the predominantly exposed facets of these minerals.« less
  9. Potentiometric and spectroscopic techniques were combined with DFT calculations to probe the coordination environment and determine thermodynamic features of trivalent f-element complexation by N-hydroxyethyl-diethylenetriamine-N,N',N",N"-tetraacetic acid, HEDTTA. Ligand protonation constants and lanthanide stability constants were determined using potentiometry. Five protonation constants were accessible in I = 2.0 M (H +/Na +)ClO 4. UV–vis spectroscopy was used to determine stability constants for Nd 3+ and Am 3+ complexation with HEDTTA. Luminescence spectroscopy indicates two water molecules in the inner coordination sphere of the Eu/HEDTTA complex, suggesting HEDTTA is heptadentate. Luminescence data was supported by DFT calculations, which demonstrate that substitution of themore » acetate pendant arm by a N-hydroxyethyl group weakens the metal–nitrogen bond. This bond elongation is reflected in HEDTTA’s ability to differentiate trivalent actinides from trivalent lanthanides. The trans-lanthanide Ln/HEDTTA complex stability trend is analogous to Ln/DTPA complexation; however, the loss of one chelate ring resulting from structural substitution weakens the complexation by ~3 orders of magnitude. Successful separation of trivalent americium from trivalent lanthanides was demonstrated when HEDTTA was utilized as aqueous holdback complexant in a liquid–liquid system. Time-dependent extraction studies for HEDTTA were compared to diethylenetriamine-N,N,N',N",N"-pentaacetic acid (DTPA) and N-hydroxyethyl-ethylenediamine-N,N',N'-triacetic acid (HEDTA). The results presented here indicate substantially enhanced phase-transfer kinetic rates for mixtures containing HEDTTA.« less
  10. Accurate prediction of melting points of ILs is important both from the fundamental point of view and from the practical perspective for screening ILs with low melting points and broadening their utilization in a wider temperature range. In this work, we present an ab initio approach to calculating melting points of ILs with known crystal structures and illustrate its application for a series of 11 ILs containing imidazolium/pyrrolidinium cations and halide/polyatomic fluoro-containing anions. The melting point is determined as a temperature at which the Gibbs free energy of fusion is zero. The Gibbs free energy of fusion can be expressedmore » through the use of the Born-Fajans-Haber cycle via the lattice free energy of forming a solid IL from gaseous phase ions and the sum of the solvation free energies of ions comprising IL. Dispersion-corrected density functional theory (DFT) involving (semi)local (PBE-D3) and hybrid exchange-correlation (HSE06-D3) functionals is applied to estimate the lattice enthalpy, entropy, and free energy. The ions solvation free energies are calculated with the SMD-generic-IL solvation model at the M06-2X/6-31+G(d) level of theory under standard conditions. The melting points of ILs computed with the HSE06-D3 functional are in good agreement with the experimental data, with a mean absolute error of 30.5 K and a mean relative error of 8.5%. The model is capable of accurately reproducing the trends in melting points upon variation of alkyl substituents in organic cations and replacement one anion by another. The results verify that the lattice energies of ILs containing polyatomic fluoro-containing anions can be approximated reasonably well using the volume-based thermodynamic approach. However, there is no correlation of the computed lattice energies with molecular volume for ILs containing halide anions. Moreover, entropies of solid ILs follow two different linear relationships with molecular volume for halides and polyatomic fluoro-containing anions. As a result, continuous progress in predicting crystal structures of organic salts with halide anions will be a key factor for successful prediction of melting points with no prior knowledge of the crystal structure.« less

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