Deployable, Automated Chemistry-on-a-Chip Platform for Nuclear Forensics

Narek Gharibyan | 19-ERD-016

Project Overview

This project aimed to develop the technologies for an automated, deployable "chemistry-on-a-chip" platform for use in the field following a post-detonation nuclear event to provide a near-real-time preliminary assessment tool for qualitatively identifying the most likely fuel-type (uranium and/or plutonium). The research led to the development of a new patent-pending 3D printer microfluidic supported liquid membrane (SLM) module. The module is highly customizable to meet individual chemistry requirements, cheap and disposable for use with radioactive materials, and modular to foster construction of different deployable systems. Initial studies have demonstrated separation of uranium and plutonium based on well-establish chemistry methods. Additionally, online detection methods (alpha, gamma, and optical spectrometers) were developed to allow for rapid characterization of actinides by coupling measurement systems with SLM modules. Further R&D is necessary to achieve a fully integrated deployable system for in-field use.

Mission Impact

Results of this project have provided major advances in a post-detonation nuclear forensic analysis capability for a near-real-time determination of key fuel constituents in the field. The new technology developed in this work directly supports Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL's) top research priority for the Nuclear Threat Reduction mission area, focused on rapid and reliable forensic analyses in the event of a nuclear detonation. In addition to three post-doctoral researchers hired for this LDRD project over the last three years, work will continue under new external funding provided by NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation through mid-FY24. This research continues to advance nonproliferation, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, and emergency response capabilities across the entire threat spectrum in support of DOE/NNSA missions.

Publications, Presentations, and Patents

Servis, A. G., et al. 2021. "3D Printed Microfluidic Supported Liquid Membrane Module for Radionuclide Separations," Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 60(1): 629-638. LLNL-JRNL-805302.

Servis, A. G., et al. 2021. "Transport Modeling of Kinetically Limited Microscale Extraction Systems: Droplet and Supported Liquid Membrane Separations," Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 60 (17): 6344-6354. LLNL-JRNL-813345.

Gharibyan, N. "Deployable, automated radiochemistry-on-a-chip platform in support of nuclear forensics." SOCOM WebEx Briefing, Livermore CA, December 11, 2020. LLNL-PRES-817573.

Gharibyan, N. "Deployable, automated radiochemistry-on-a-chip platform in support of nuclear forensics." LLNL-CWRU WebEx Seminar, Livermore CA, January 13, 2021. LLNL-PRES-817573.

Servis, A. G., et al. A Modular, Disposable 3D Printed Microfluidic Membrane Separation System for Separation and Purification. U.S. Patent 16/803,393, filed February 27, 2020, and issue pending.