Chemistry Division

Chemistry Division Capabilities

Actinide Analytical Chemistry, C-AAC
Chemical Diagnostics and Engineering, C-CDE
Inorganic, Isotope, and Actinide Chemistry, C-IIAC
Nuclear and Radiochemistry, C-NR
Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, C-PCS

Actinide Analytical Chemistry, C-AACChemistry Division Capabilities

Onsite Analytical Chemistry

  • Provide onsite radiochemistry and trace metal analysis by inductive coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) at Technical Area 55.

Pu Assay and Classical Chemistry

  • Controlled potential coulometric titration
  • Ceric titration - photometric method
  • Pu (III) and Pu (IV) spectrophotometric method
  • U Assay – Davies Gray
  • Fe determination by spectrophotometry
  • Si determination by spectrophotometry
  • Loss on Ignition (LOI)
  • Free acid determination in plutonium-containing solutions
  • Standard solution preparation

Trace Element Analysis

  • Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission and mass spectrometry (ICP-AES/ICP-MS)
  • Direct current arc emission spectroscopy
  • Cold vapor atomic fluorescence
  • Sample preparations

Elemental Analysis by X-ray Fluorescence

  • Wavelength dispersive x-ray fluorescence

Mass Spectrometry Analysis

  • Thermal ionization mass spectrometry
  • High precision gas mass spectrometry

Radiochemical Analysis

  • Separations and sample preparation
  • Alpha spectroscopy
  • Gamma-ray spectroscopy
  • Gas proportional counters
  • Liquid scintillation counting
  • Automatic gamma counters

Ion Chromatography

  • Inorganic and organic cations and anions

Interstitial Gas Analysis

  • C, H, O, N
  • Moisture
  • Tritium

Other Activities

  • Nuclear forensic determination
  • Radiation chemistry
  • Fabrication of actinide NDA standards
  • Fabrication and certification of high purity Pu metal standards
  • Plutonium exchange program
inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometer

A new inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometer (ICP-AES) in a chemical fume hood

Inorganic, Isotope and Actinide Chemistry, C-IIACChemistry Division Capabilities

C-IIAC performs research and addresses immediate mission needs related to the nation’s nuclear energy, renewable energy and medical imaging arenas. Mission thrust areas within the group include actinide chemistry supporting new materials and separation processes, development of the production methods and applications of accelerator-produced radioisotopes, and energy storage/production methods using chemical systems. Basic and applied research is conducted within the group includes nuclear chemistry and physics, inorganic chemistry, and environmental chemistry in support of these programs. Current major sponsors include NNSA, DOE energy offices, other federal agencies, and LANL institutional support. Key to success in these areas are internal and external (e.g. university, industrial and national lab partners) interactions with expertise in accelerator physics, nuclear physics, radiochemistry methods, materials chemistry, nuclear materials handling and analysis, molecular science in support of separations chemistry and radioisotope delivery agent development, and molecular bioscience. Key collaborations exist with LANSCE, T, B, and MPA Divisions, and other groups within C Division, and with university, industrial and other national lab partners.

Radioisotope Production

We prepare and distribute unique isotopes used for medical and industrial applications. (Nuclear chemistry, target development, process chemistry, separations chemistry, molecular chemistry of radioisotopes, including QA/QC).
Eva Birnbaum, (505) 665-7167
Kevin John, (505) 667-3602

Actinide Chemistry

We conduct fundamental research in actinide chemistry, as well as develop new chemical processes for application in manufacturing and nuclear fuel cycles.  We also study the coordination chemistry of lanthanides and other important fission products.  (inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and radiochemistry).
William Crooks, (505) 665-8781
Eduardo Garcia, (505) 667-0794
Andrew Gaunt, (505) 667-3395
George Goff, (505) 664-0337
Stosh Kozimor, (505) 665-5863
Iain May, (505) 667-8643

Catalysis and Separation Science

We design, synthesize, and characterize ligands and organometallic complexes for catalysis.  We conduct structure-function studies of complex molecular and material systems including hydrogen storage media and biomass for renewable energy.  We also synthesize and characterize heterogeneous catalysts including micro- and mesoporous materials. (ligand and catalyst synthesis, tandem catalysis, novel reaction media, dihydrogen chemistry, biomass chemistry).
John Gordon, (505) 665-6962
Susan Hanson, (505) 665-3818
Mike Janicke, (505) 665-2692
Frances Stephens, (505) 665-1642
Andrew Sutton, (505) 665-2931

Energy Storage and Energetic Materials

We conduct fundamental research in thermal energy storage, in new methods for hydrogen storage, and in new energetic materials especially nanocomposites and coordination chemistry of polynitrogen ligands.
Steve Obrey, (505) 606-0441
Jackie Veauthier, (505) 665-8001

Supporting Capabilities

Chemical Analysis and Spectroscopy

GC, GC/MS, HPLC, DSC, TGA, ICP, electrochemical analysis, optical, Raman, and IR spectroscopy

In situ spectroscopies (IR, UV-Vis, NIR, NMR, Raman, GC/MS, IR-GC-MS)

Powder X-ray diffraction

Multiple instruments equipped to measure both nonradioactive and radioactive materials

Molecular structure and dynamics

Solution and solid-state multinuclear NMR spectroscopy

Chemical and materials synthesis

Inert atmosphere techniques for handling air- and moisture-sensitive compounds nonradioactive and radioactive

Hydrothermal synthesis of porous materials

Organic synthesis of ligand systems

Solid-state synthesis of materials

Organometallic synthesis

Inorganic synthesis

Novel media to support materials synthesis and catalysis (ionic liquids, CO2, etc.).


100 MeV Isotope Production Facility

Energetic reaction containment vessels

Variety of gas-solid reaction and characterization capabilities

Hepa-filtered Be transuranic facilities

Low-level rad facilities (RC-1)

Mid-level rad facilities (CMR)

Hot Cells (RC-1, CMR, IPF)

’Hot’ and ’Cold’ chemistry lab space

Vessel Preparation Facility (DAHRT)

January 2012

Nuclear and Radiochemistry , C-NRChemistry Division Capabilities

Nuclear Weapons Performance Assessment and Data Interpretation

C-NR validates the performance of LANL-designed nuclear weapons as measured by radiochemical detectors. The group also contributes to future nuclear test readiness.

DANCE detector DANCE instrument

The DANCE detector, a 160 element BaF2 γ-array, is used to measure neutron capture and fission cross sections at the Lujan Center/LANSCE. Only half of the detector is shown. A parallel plate avalanche counter (PPAC), shown in the inset, is used to tag fission events for actinide targets that plug directly into the counter. In this way, fission and neutron capture events can be separated.

Radioanalytical Measurements

The Radioanalytical capability utilizes radiochemistry, mass spectrometry and counting technologies to perform routine environmental monitoring in support of treaty verification and other threat reduction missions.

Nuclear Chemistry

C-NR performs fundamental and applied research extending from the measurement of neutron-induced reaction cross sections to the trapping of radioactive atoms. Advanced studies of nuclear fission, neutron capture, nuclear isomers, along with the development of radiochemical diagnostics for inertial confined fusion are underway. Radiochemistry is used to isolate reaction products of interest or to make radioactive targets. We are also developing new technologies for the ultra-sensitive detection of actinides and other isotopes of interest for threat reduction and stockpile stewardship. We work closely with collaborators from universities, other national laboratories, and with other LANL groups.

Measurement of Radionuclides in the Environment

C-NR has methodologies and facilities for measurement of very low concentrations of radionuclides in environmental samples.

Mass Separation and Mass Spectrometry

C-NR has some of the best equipment, methodologies, and facilities for mass separations and mass spectrometry available today. We can measure very low concentrations of radiouclides and have some of the best facilities in the world for isotope ratio measurements.

In Vitro Bioassay Measurements

The Bioassay Program Team in C-NR supports the Laboratory mission by providing plutonium, americium, and tritium bioassay monitoring for radiation workers.

Radioactive Atom Trapping

C-NR has the capability to trap radioactive atoms for a wide variety of research purposes, including quantum computation.

atom trapping

Mission Thrust Areas within C-NR

  • Nuclear and radiochemistry analysis (experimental and calculational) in support of the assessment and validation of nuclear weapons performance.
  • Low-level radioanalysis of environmental and biological samples.
  • The development and application of radiochemistry and radioanalytical methods.


September 2009

Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, C-PCSChemistry Division Capabilities

C-PCS focuses on research problems that require an integrated approach involving scientific, engineering, and modeling disciplines in physical chemistry and applied spectroscopy. We perform basic and applied research in support of the Laboratory’s national security mission and serve a wide range of customers including Department of Energy (DOE, Department of Defense (DoD), National Institute of Health (NIH), Intelligence, other federal agencies, and private industry. C-PCS currently consists of five teams representing the various areas of our ongoing research.

PCS Teams

  • Remote Sensing Applications;
  • Weapons Chemistry;
  • Softmatter Nanotechnology and Advanced Spectroscopy;
  • Materials Chemistry, Sensors, and Imaging; and
  • Chemical Physics.

Our group’s capabilities are summarized below. These capabilities support growing programmatic needs in attribution, public health, energy, and weapons science.

C-PCS’s Remote Sensing Applications team develops remote sensing technologies that span from experimental to theoretical. We design and field new types of remote sensing instruments whose aim is to detect spectral or optical signatures of importance in proliferation detection, and apply these instruments to other defense missions such as battlefield threats and intelligence gathering. We use the latest technology in data acquisition and geographical information systems to execute field campaigns with high efficiency and enable the rapid transformation of sensor data to intelligence assessment, in some cases in near-real time. Theoretical research is aimed at the development of detection algorithms (for gas chemicals, solid materials, and others) to extract signals from high levels of background clutter, using both conventional techniques based on matched filtering and machine learning methods to improve detection under specialized conditions. We also make optimal use of chemical and physical intuition to identify new signatures for proliferation activity, which feeds back into instrument design.

Weapons Chemistry researches topics important to the safety and surety of our nation’s nuclear weapons. This team has strong programs in chemical engineering as well. Our major thrust areas include the study of energetic materials, plutonium chemistry in regards to certification processes, and chemical process development. We have put together a suite of experimental and modeling tools to predict the behavior of energetic materials, particularly in response to abnormal events such as fires. The experimental tools include fast framing cameras, temperature and pressure sensors, IR imaging and nonlinear optical imaging. These tools allow us to follow decomposition kinetics from the time scale of hours to subsonic burning on the time scale of microseconds. Results over the full dynamic range of time and temperature are used to develop models of decomposition, which can then be validated by the observations during integral thermal explosion experiments. With regards to chemical process development, we have activities ranging from bench-scale studies aimed at determining intrinsic kinetic parameters and energetics to the design and demonstration of integrated flow systems for continuous demonstration (through pilot scale). Current areas of interest include carbon dioxide capture, membrane-based separations, super-absorbent materials, and bio-fuel processing. We also have programs to develop unique inorganic biocides, materials for field-enhanced separation processes, inclusion compounds for gas capture and storage, and materials for energy applications (e.g. solar thermal and solar concentration).

C-PCS’s nanoscience efforts reside within the Softmatter Nanotechnology and Advanced Spectroscopy Team (, and centers on the synthesis and characterization of semiconductor and metal nanoparticles, composites and assemblies, and their application in optoelectronic devices. This world-recognized effort is fully integrated, combining extensive wet-chemical synthesis and assembly capabilities with nearly unmatched advanced spectroscopic resources, specializing in ultrafast time-resolved absorption/photoluminescence of nanomaterials under a variety of conditions and single-particle spectroscopy/imaging. Additionally, the Team houses extensive electrochemical and physical characterization tools, including particle size analysis and TEM with EDX. Finally, nanomaterials-based devices are fabricated and electronically characterized in a dedicated Class 10,000 clean room. Current research interests of the Softmatter Team include study and control of inter- and intra-nanoparticle carrier interactions, and advanced band-structure engineering through heterostructuring. Particular emphasis is placed on effects relevant to optical amplification/lasing, solid-state lighting and photovoltaic/photocatalytic applications. This work is supported by DOE and industrial funding, as well as by LDRD.

C-PCS’s Materials Chemistry, Sensors, and Imaging team works within Los Alamos’s Integrated Spectroscopy Laboratory (ISL) facility and other facilities. In all, over 6000 ft2 of laboratory space dedicated to spectroscopy instrumentation. A variety of sample handling protocols including chemical, BSL-2, and radiochemistry laboratory spaces are also featured. Flexible integration of the many capabilities in the ISL is a primary strength of this facility. In addition, this team operates within several classified spaces including a 2000 ft2 of S/NSI classified research laboratory. The optical spectroscopy instrumentation includes both steady-state and time-resolved capabilities for electronic and vibrational spectroscopies. The laboratories also house spectral microscopy capabilities which are capable of sample analysis using wavelengths spanning from x-rays to the far infrared and including Raman and SEM techniques. Materials chemistry research includes the predictive design of noble metal nanoclusters and the synthesis and analysis of biomimetic materials. Research into the basic functions of redox metalloproteins as well as the early events in protein folding are performed within this space. Sensor research includes the development of targeted cellular nanosensors, and the creation of optical waveguide based disease detection platforms. Significant efforts in sustainable energy research in hydrogen storage and cellulosic ethanol biofuel research are performed within this Team. Research sponsors include the DOE (NNSA), DOE (LDRD), NIH, Industrial and the Intelligence Community.

Chemical Physics investigates the quantum behavior of atoms, molecules, energy transfer, and reactions. The Chemical Physics team sets these traditional inquiries in a modern context. For example, one of our research programs is inspired by the fact that molecular chemistry and chemical physics are predicted to be extraordinarily different at temperatures below 1 mK. Chemistry in this ultracold regime might, paradoxically, be fast owing to slow collisions that make tunneling highly probable. Cross sections for some processes at ~100 μK could exceed room-temperature values; the extrapolation of theories that hold at 100 K to the ultracold would likely underestimate reaction cross sections by 20 orders of magnitude. Despite the outpouring of theoretical papers on the topic, ultracold molecular matter remains largely terra incognita for lack of an experimental source. In 2004, we reported that, like atoms, molecules may be laser cooled and have since identified 12 polar molecules disposed to laser cooling and have designed storage rings that can hold and collide laser-cooled ensembles of polar molecules. Research in molecule laser-cooling was begun with LDRD funding and continues with modest support from the Army Research Office. The experimental resources for this enterprise include a molecular-beam machine and seven high-resolution cw lasers (dye and diode), which are collectively capable of an output-wavelength range from 400-1100 nm. We continue to pursue funding for ultracold-molecule research, as relevant to new studies in chemical physics, collective matter, and sensor development, from LDRD and outside agencies.

Our assets and expertise in high-resolution spectroscopy are also being applied to the quantum-coherent manipulation of matter, a research segment of chemical physics but one we intersect with the disciplines of nonlinear and quantum optics. With LDRD funding begun this year, we will attempt the tailoring of an atomic vapor into a photon amplifier of unusually low noise and outstanding efficiency, meaning that nearly every incident photon will get amplified into a coherent pulse easily detected by conventional detectors and imaging arrays. Our simulations to date indicate that the photon amplifier, when treated like the “front end” of a detector system, will offer a combination of nearly unity quantum efficiency and high resolving power (of ν/Δν ∼ 107) unlike any other detector. Though presently studied with a simple atomic vapor, the approach is generally applicable to different media including solid state. We expect the program to interest those concerned with faint-light imaging and efficient photon detection, such as the remote sensing and quantum-computing/communication communities.

Spectroscopy and Imaging

  • Scanning Probe Microscopies (AFM, STM) and Electron Microscopies (SEM and TEM)
  • Static UV-VIS, Near-IR and IR absorption/reflection, fluorescence, phosphorescence and Raman spectroscopies
  • Near-field and confocal optical microscopies
  • Ultra-fast time-resolved UV-Vis, Near-IR and IR absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Single molecule/nanoparticle spectroscopy
  • Femtosecond near-field scanning optical microscopy
  • Low temperature, high-pressure, and high-magnetic field spectroscopy
  • Nonlinear optical microscopy
  • Dynamic Light Scattering particle size analysis
  • Optical diagnostics of interfaces
  • Equation-of-state measurements at extremely high pressure or temperature

New Materials Development

  • Biosensor development
  • Bioimaging
  • Quantum computing technologies
  • Nanomaterials
  • Novel electronic and optical materials
  • Polyelectrolyte mulitlayered thin films
  • Solar Cell characterization system

Remote Sensing

  • Remote sensing for nonproliferation and homeland security
  • Hyperspectral data analysis
  • Aerosol detection
  • Advanced sensor development
  • Field tests & evaluation

Mesoscale Molecular Structures: Synthesis, Dynamics, and Applications

  • Molecular building blocks
  • Assembly and fabrication technologies
  • Structural and dynamic diagnostic development
  • Self replicating structures
  • Chemical processing
  • Organometallic/colloidal synthesis and assembly, including extensive inert atmosphere facilities
  • Hydrothermal and tube-furnace synthesis
  • Spin-coat, Langmuir-Blodgett and synthetic opal thin film assembly

Energetic Materials

  • Dynamics
  • Kinetic modeling
  • Development and Testing
  • Sensors
  • Chemistry and phase behavior of energetic materials
  • Shocked materials physics

Surface Science

  • Actinide surface chemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Modeling
  • Heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry

Chemical Kinetics and Thermodynamics

  • Carbon management and CO2 sequestration
  • Chemical destruction technologies
  • Heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry
  • Actinide waste storage

Other Instrumentation and Capabilities

BSL2 Facilities, Solution X-ray Scattering, Voltammetry and Amperometry, Helium Cryostats, Glove Boxes, Fume hoods, Wet chemistry facilities for sample preparation of Uranium and (with permits) transuranics.

Class 10,000 clean room facility (installed in 2007), with:

  • Wet Process Station (8 ft)
  • Laminar Flow Hood (8 ft)
  • Chemical Fume Hood
  • Gloveboxes housing Magnetron Sputtering gun, thermal evaporator, spin coater, stereomicroscope with CCD camera, and Optical Probe Station
  • Barrel Plasma cleaner
  • Reactive Ion Etcher
  • Nanonex Nanoimprint Lithography system
  • Semiconductor Device Analyzer
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