Amy Hixon

Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

DOE Early Career: Understanding the Chemical Complexity of MultiComponent Systems:  Uranium Polyoxometalates as Nanosorbents


The actinide series consists of the fifteen elements with atomic numbers 89‐103 (i.e., actinium through lawrencium) and carries great societal importance due to the elements’ use in medicine, power generation, national security, and nuclear waste management. Due to the complex nature of the actinide elements and the relative difficulty of working with radioactive materials, research in actinide chemistry has lagged far behind that of most other elements on the periodic table. To address current knowledge gaps, this research will study the chemistry of the actinide elements uranium, neptunium, plutonium, and americium. The thermodynamics and kinetics of the interactions of neptunium, plutonium, and americium with nanometer‐sized uranyl peroxide cage clusters will be used to describe bonding and structure (i.e., how electrons are shared in these unique complexes). This research represents the first study that uses actinide materials as nanosorbents for other actinide elements. The well‐defined structure of the uranyl peroxide cage cluster allows it to serve as an experimental model for other metal oxide surfaces.


Research in the Hixon group focuses on several aspects of transuranic (e.g., neptunium, plutonium, americium) chemistry, such as aqueous environmental geochemistry, environmental fate and transport, and aspects of national security. The Hixon group uses a variety of wet chemical, instrumental, and modeling techniques to study the transuranic elements across spatial and temporal scales and to predict their behavior in both natural and engineered systems. These elements pose a long-term environmental concern due to their toxicity and long half-lives. Therefore, this research is important to protect public health and safety, protect the environment, promote national defense and security, and support a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle.

Professor Hixon received her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering & Earth Science from Clemson University in 2013 and 2008, respectively and her B.S. degree in Chemistry from Radford University in 2006. While a doctoral candidate at Clemson University, she also held a position at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, where she supported the work of the Performance Assessment and Environmental Review branches.  She is currently a member of the Health Physics Society, the American Chemical Society, and Sigma Xi.