Contact: Dr Gareth Law
Given the dose and cost implications associated with working with radioactive samples, there is a need for rapid, standoff analytical techniques in the nuclear industry that permit analysis of contaminants (e.g., radionuclides, organic complexants) on material surfaces. This can then aid plant operation, material sorting / sentencing, and decontamination practices during decommissioning and plant post operational clean out (POCO). Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a candidate technique that permits elemental analysis from unprepared surfaces, as long as there is a line of sight between the sample and the LIBS machine. Further, when used in multi-pulse mode, LIBS can permit analysis of contaminant penetration into materials and recent work at Manchester and NNL has highlighted that LIBS can provide speciation information for select elements. The technique is also meant to be non-destructive. However, there is much to learn about LIBS use in the nuclear industry and this forms the basis of this NNL sponsored PhD project.
Specifically, the PhD will work towards better defining what radioactive and organic species LIBS can analyse on/in a range of materials important to the nuclear industry (primarily varying grades of steel and different types of cement and plastics). The studentship will also seek to define whether LIBS analysis adversely affects the material being analysed such that it cannot be re-used in the nuclear industry. This will be assessed through materials characterisation and contamination studies conducted after LIBS analysis.
The studentship builds on recent collaborative work between UoM, NNL, and Sellafield Ltd. where we have demonstrated use of LIBS for Cs and Sr characterisation on austenitic stainless steel, select U compounds, and graphite [e.g. 1]. The successful student will be trained in LIBS analysis, microscopy techniques, surface characterisation techniques, radiochemistry techniques. Applications are encouraged from students expecting to receive a 1stor 2.i in a physical science discipline. The project will be based out of the University of Manchester School of Chemistry Centre for Radiochemistry Research (Law, Heath), and Dr Gareth Law will be the primary supervisor. The student will also have access to laboratories and techniques in the Manchester School of Materials (Engelberg) and the NNL / University of Manchester PHAROS laboratory (Smith, Trivedi)
 Lang et al., (in press). Analysis of Contaminated Nuclear Plant Steel by Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. Journal of Hazardous Materials. NOTE: A copy of the accepted paper can be provided by Law on request.