Daniel Felton (Burns Group)

Formation of Uranyl Peroxide Nanoclusters Under Irradiation

February 17, 2021


Daniel Felton is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and is advised by Prof. Peter C. Burns. He presented "Formation of Uranyl Peroxide Nanoclusters Under Irradiation" at the ND Energy PD&GS Seminar in February 2021.

Felton studies how radiation affects the formation and stability of uranium compounds in nuclear waste and nuclear reactors.

“We need to better understand the speciation of nuclear waste and the fate of uranium were it to leak out of its containment,” Felton said of the importance of understanding the implications of his research.

“What I am studying is how uranium containing nuclear waste can migrate into groundwater and be transported over long distances. Knowing that there is nuclear waste being stored in Washington state that is leaked out of its containment is important for the public to be aware of and seek more information on.”

Felton works in the Radiation Laboratory with Prof. Jay LaVerne and postdoctoral associate Melissa Fairley, utilizing the gamma, alpha, and beta radiation sources available on campus. Additionally, he has used ND Energy’s Materials Characterization Facility for Raman spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

Working in a collaborative environment has allowed Felton to achieve his research goals.

“While there are many instruments one can learn how to operate, it is often easier to find an expert to help you collect and interpret data,” Felton said. “I am also thankful for having a supporting lab as well as chemistry cohort that has helped me get through many a hard time.”

Felton earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics at the University of Idaho. The proximity of the Hanford nuclear waste site and the Idaho National Laboratories in the region has resulted in an extensive amount of research into nuclear energy and chemistry at the institution. Felton began researching actinide chemistry in his sophomore year and continued through the rest of his undergraduate career.

The opportunity to work with a leader in the field of actinide chemistry such as Prof. Burns was a drawing factor for Felton in choosing Notre Dame.

“Peter Burns has the best actinide chemistry lab of any university in the United States,” Felton said. “That paired with the Radiation Laboratory and particle accelerators on campus make it the ideal place to study radiation effects on actinide materials.”

Felton believes programs offered by ND Energy have helped broaden his understanding of the need for sustainable energy globally. He noted a 2020 Distinguished Lecture by Christopher Cahill for providing insight into how teaching nuclear science to policy makers can help them better understand the laws that they make.

“These topics have really changed how I think about my future career as well as current research,” Felton said.