Hunter College Chemistry Professor Lynn Francesconi will lead a project investigating an important emerging clean-energy technology, thanks to a more than $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The grant is part of $70 million in federal funding to support research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at historically underrepresented institutions with the goal of diversifying leadership in the physical sciences. The funding, through DOE’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative, will support internships, training programs, and mentor opportunities at 65 different institutions, including 40 higher-learning institutions, such as Hunter, that serve minority populations.
“This project is a prime opportunity to broaden our understanding of an important area of chemistry while helping to train a diverse nuclear workforce,” Francesconi said.
The Francesconi project is a collaboration with researchers from Lehman College and the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and will investigate the chemistry of technetium-99, a radioactive metal, in molten salts. Molten-salt reactors are an emerging nuclear technology in which the fissile nuclear fuel is dissolved in a molten salt that also acts as a coolant. As the reactor operates, fission products, including technetium-99, accumulate and impede reactor performance. Understanding what chemical forms the fission products take in molten salts is key to designing effective separation systems.
The grant will provide funding over three years for a postdoctoral fellow, two graduate students, and two undergraduates as well as funds for updated equipment for the Francesconi radiochemistry lab at Hunter College. The grant will also support internships at all levels at Brookhaven National Lab as the collaborations between the three institutions grows.