Selective oxidation of trivalent americium (Am) could facilitate its separation from lanthanides in nuclear waste streams. Here, we report the application of a high-surface-area, tin-doped indium oxide electrode surface-derivatized with a terpyridine ligand to the oxidation of Am(III) to Am(V) and Am(VI) in nitric acid. Potentials as low as 1.8 volts (V) versus the saturated calomel electrode were applied, 0.7 V lower than the 2.6 V potential for one-electron oxidation of Am(III) to Am(IV) in 1 molar acid. This simple electrochemical procedure provides a method to access the higher oxidation states of Am in noncomplexing media for the study of the associated coordination chemistry and, more important, for more efficient separation protocols.
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