Physics and Chemistry of Minerals

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 52–64 | Cite as

Determination of the uranium valence state in the brannerite structure using EELS, XPS, and EDX

  • M. Colella
  • G. R. Lumpkin
  • Z. Zhang
  • E. C. Buck
  • K. L. Smith
Original papers


In this study, the valence states of uranium in synthetic and natural brannerite samples were studied using a combination of transmission electron microscopy-electron energy loss spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM-EDX), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) techniques. We used a set of five (UO2, CaUO4, SrCa2UO6, UTi2O6, and Y0.5U0.5Ti2O6) U standard samples, including two synthetic brannerites, to calibrate the EELS branching ratio, M5/(M4 +M5), against the number of f electrons. The EELS data were collected at liquid nitrogen temperature in order to minimise the effects of electron beam reduction of U6+ and U5+. Test samples consisted of three additional synthetic brannerites (Th0.7U0.3Ti2O6, Ca0.2U0.8Ti2O6, and Th0.55U0.3Ca0.15Ti2O6) and three natural brannerites from different localities. The natural brannerite samples are all completely amorphous, due to cumulative alpha decay events over geological time periods (24–508 Ma). Our U valence calibration results are in reasonable agreement with previous work, suggesting possibly a non-linear relationship between the branching ratio and the number of f electrons (and hence the average valence state) of U in solids. We found excellent agreement between the nominal valence states of U and the average valence states determined directly by EELS and estimated by EDX analysis (with assumptions regarding stoichiometry) in two of the three synthetic brannerite test samples. The average U oxidation states of the five synthetic brannerite samples, as derived from XPS analyses, are also in good agreement with those determined by other techniques. The average valence states of U in three amorphous (metamict) natural brannerite samples with alpha decay doses ranging from 3.6×1016 to 6.9×1017 α/mg were found to be 4.4, 4.7, and 4.8, consistent with the presence of U5+ and/or U6+ as well as U4+ in these samples. These results are in general agreement with previous wet chemical analyses of natural brannerite. However, the average valence states inferred by SEM-EDX for two of the natural brannerite samples do not show satisfactory agreement with the EELS determined valence. This may be due to the occurrence of OH groups, cation vacancies, anion vacancies, or excess oxygen in the radiation-damaged structure of natural brannerite.


Uranium EELS Brannerite Valence 



We are grateful to C.A. Francis (Harvard University), V. Trommsdorff (ETH, Zürich), and C.T. Williams (The Natural History Museum, London) for providing natural brannerite samples used in this study, Lou Vance and Melody Carter for providing the synthetic samples, Sammy Leung for collection of SEM-EDX data, and Edward Roach for SEM and XPS specimen preparation. Part of this work was performed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a national scientific user facility sponsored by US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research and located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, operated for DOE by Battelle.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Colella
    • 1
  • G. R. Lumpkin
    • 2
  • Z. Zhang
    • 1
  • E. C. Buck
    • 3
  • K. L. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Nuclear Science & Technology OrganisationMenaiAustralia
  2. 2.Cambridge Centre for Ceramic Immobilisation, Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Radiochemical Processing LaboratoryPacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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