The structure of plutonium(IV) oxide as hydrolysed clusters in aqueous suspensions
Journal article, 2013
The behavior of plutonium still puzzles scientists 70 years after its discovery. There are several factors making the chemistry of plutonium interesting including its ability to keep several oxidation states. Another unique property is that the oxidation states +III, +IV, +V and +VI may exist simultaneously in solution. Another property plutonium shares with some other tetravalent metal ions is the ability to form stable polynuclear complexes or colloids. The structures of freshly prepared and five-year old plutonium(IV) colloids are compared with crystalline plutonium(IV) oxide using Pu L-3-edge EXAFS. It was shown that as the plutonium colloids age they do in fact shrink in size, contrary to previous expectations. The aged colloidal particles are indeed very small with only 3-4 plutonium atoms, and with a structure very similar to solid plutonium(IV) oxide, but with somewhat shorter mean Pu-O bond and Pu. Pu distances indicating a partial oxidation. The very small size of the colloidal particles is further supported by the fact that they do not sediment on heavy ultra-centrifugation.