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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J002208/1
Title: Theoretical studies of actinide complexation with macrocyclic ligands: identifying synthetic targets and real-world applications
Principal Investigator: Kerridge, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Los Alamos National Laboratory University of Helsinki
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Career Acceleration Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2011 Ends: 28 September 2014 Value (£): 594,433
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Synthetic Methodology
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Jun 2011 Fellowships 2011 Interview Panel B Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
I propose to investigate the chemical interaction between uranyl and a series of porphyrins. Uranyl is an oxygen complex of the heavy element uranium and porphyrins are large, ringlike carbon-based molecules. Several of these chemical complexes have been created in laboratories, and I envisage the results of my research having applications as diverse as nuclear fuel enrichment, radiation detection, cancer therapy, and solar energy. In addition, my work will identify complexes that research chemists should focus their efforts on synthesising in the laboratory as well as demonstrating that state-of-the-art theoretical methods can and must be applied to these complexes in order to give a quantitative understanding of their chemical structure.

The porphyrins can be considered as molecular rings, or macrocycles, with a central cavity in which other atoms and molecules can reside, and the variety of applications I have suggested is possible since they can be easily modified in order to change their properties:

-Their size can be altered, so that they can be tailored to 'fit' with uranyl to varying degrees.

-They can be modified so that they evaporate more readily when heated.

-Related macrocycles enable one to choose the type of atom with which the uranyl directly interacts.

-They can be altered so that the strength with which they bind uranyl can be varied.

An important part of my proposed work is that it is computational: all of my direct research will be via simulation. Simulation plays a greater role in research into the actinide series of elements, which includes uranium, than in other areas of chemistry, since all actinides are radioactive, some of them extremely so, and there are very few facilities in the world where chemists can work with them. This means that less laboratory work can be performed, and so accurate simulation is a requirement in order to further our understanding of these elements.

My proposed research employs extremely sophisticated theoretical techniques in order to study uranyl porphyrin complexes. Whilst there has been some previous simulation work on such complexes, it has been carried out using less accurate methods. The realisation of the potential applications that I have outlined are dependent on specific details of the interactions between the porphyrins and the uranyl. Such details are often unavailable directly from experiment; theoretical techniques with strong predictive capabilities are therefore a necessity. In my previous research I have shown that popular theoretical methods may not be capable of even qualitative descriptions of actinide complexes, particularly for the heavier actinides such as plutonium, and it is only in the present day that computational resources are available to conduct simulations capable of quantitative predictions on such relatively large complexes.

As part of my proposed research I also intend to study the interactions of the porphyrins with other actinide elements. Other actinides can behave very differently to uranium, and understanding when and how they differ are fundamental questions in heavy element chemistry. The properties of the porphyrins that I have described allow many different aspects of these fundamental questions to be considered.

In summary, the significant theoretical study that I propose here will complement the excellent experimental work being carried out both in universities and national laboratories in the United States. Whilst the primary goal of this work is the realisation of the applications I have outlined, it will also set new standards in the simulation of large molecular systems, and deepen our understanding of the chemistry of the actinide series.

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