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Physical Chemistry

Glenn T. Seaborg Award For Nuclear Chemistry

by Alexander H. Tullo
February 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 8

Credit: Courtesy of Richard Haire
This is a mug of Richard G. Haire, a corporate fellow emeritus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard Haire

Sponsored by the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology

Richard G. Haire, a corporate fellow emeritus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has spent four decades probing multiple science aspects of the 4f- and 5f-electron elements, concentrating primarily on the fundamental science of the elements actinium through mendelevium.

Haire joined the staff of ORNL in 1965 after earning a Ph.D. in chemistry at Michigan State University. He led the transuranium element chemistry group at ORNL and also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee.

Part of what attracted Haire to ORNL was its high-flux isotope reactor, which produced transplutonium elements in nanogram to milligram quantities—a sufficient amount for research studies.

Haire became known for his forefront fundamental research of these f-elements and their compounds, and he has developed numerous novel experimental techniques for using the small samples available for fundamental studies. His research efforts have emphasized the role of electronic configurations and systematic comparisons for understanding the chemistry and physics of these elements.

Some of Haire’s collaborative research projects involving the actinides have delved into the crystal structure of the metals and assignment of their electronic configurations; the enthalpies of sublimation and of solution of the transplutonium elements, again in conjunction with the materials’ electronic configurations; the crystal structure and properties of multiple actinide compounds; and the determination of the high-pressure behaviors of protactinium and americium through californium with a special emphasis on the changes in their 5f-electron bonding with pressure.

Working with small quantities of these transplutonium elements can pose unique challenges, especially for those elements with short half-lives and significant levels of radioactivity. For example, einsteinium-253, the major einsteinium isotope produced in reactors, has a half-life of 20 days; thus the ionizing radiation and accompanying thermal heat from decay can affect the chemistry and physics of its materials. Haire is one of the few people who have performed research on the solid-state forms of einsteinium and fermium metals and compounds. The crystal structure of einsteinium metal and the enthalpies of sublimation of einsteinium and fermium metals determined in these studies established that they are the first “divalent” actinide metals of the series, in accordance with their predicted f to d electron promotion energies.

Haire is a member of several scientific organizations and an emeritus member of ACS. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has had a large number of scientific collaborations with national and international scientific groups and has received numerous awards. He is the author or coauthor of some 400 research articles and reference book chapters. He currently is a consultant with the ORNL Radiochemical & Engineering Center.

Haire will present the award address before the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology.



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