Dr. Graham Peaslee of the Hope College chemistry faculty has received a second major grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a system for doing some recycling at the atomic level.

The two-year research award will support continued development of a method for harvesting leftover radioisotopes generated through the use of large particle accelerators.  The $800,000 grant, shared by Peaslee and researchers based at Washington University and the University of Missouri, follows a two-year, $840,000 grant from the Department of Energy for the project in 2011.

Peaslee noted that although such isotopes begin as leftovers from other experiments, they are often themselves highly desirable and can be put to a variety of uses depending on the type collected, from cancer treatments to detecting illicit nuclear activity abroad.  The new collection system includes a means of retrieving the isotopes, which are otherwise lost, and a methodology for recovering specific types.

The first award took the project from initial vision to working prototype.  The new grant, which will run through 2016, will help expand the system’s capabilities.

“Last time we were talking about what we were going to do,” Peaslee said. “Now we’ve built it, and it works well.”

“We know a few design tweaks to do, but basically we’ll be using the same system,” he said.  “Now we’re going to go after different isotopes.”

The system is being created with a particular emphasis on how it can function with the federally funded “Facility for Rare Isotope Beams” (FRIB) that will be operated by Michigan State University, which is also home of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.  FRIB is currently being developed and could become operational in 2021.  Peaslee and the other members of the research team have been connecting regularly with MSU to test their system and help assure its compatibility with FRIB.

In addition to Peaslee, the Hope team includes multiple students who participate in the Hope College Nuclear Group, which is co-led by Dr. Paul DeYoung of the physics faculty, as well as a post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Aranh Pen, a 2002 Hope College chemistry graduate.