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Department of Chemistry Kenneth L. Nash


Fellow of the American Chemical Society

Fulmer 639B
Pullman, WA 99164-4630

(509) 335-2654

Nash, Ken_jpg


Ph.D. Inorganic Chemistry, 1978
Florida State University


M.S. Inorganic Chemistry, 1975
Florida State University


B.A. Chemistry, 1972
Lewis University


After nearly 25 years of conducting and directing basic and applied research on actinide and fission product chemistry and chemical separations at Argonne National Laboratory (near Chicago) and at the U.S. Geological Survey (near Denver), Professor Nash joined the department in the fall of 2003. He completed his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry at Florida State University in 1978, working under the supervision of Professor Greg Choppin. In the early years of his career, his research emphasized the application of separations techniques to the elucidation of actinide solution chemistry in environmental and geological systems. At that time, he did some of the earliest work characterizing actinide interactions with naturally-occurring humic and fulvic acids. For the past 17 years, his research has focused principally on chemical separations science and the basic coordination chemistry of actinides and important fission products (mainly lanthanides). Professor Nash has published extensively on the fundamental solution chemistry of actinides, solvent extraction and ion exchange, environmental chemistry, and on applications of basic science to solving real-world problems associated with the use of radioactive materials. He is active in the Nuclear Chemistry and Technology Division and in the Separations Science and Technology Subdivision of the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, Co-editor in Chief of the journal Solvent Extraction and Ion Exchange, Associate Editor of the journal Radiochimica Acta, on the Editorial Board of the journal Separation Science and Technology and coeditor of two symposium series books. Dr. Nash was a visiting scholar at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute at Tokai-mura in 2000, and is the 2003 recipient of the Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Actinide Separations. He has joined the faculty at WSU to bring some of this extensive practical experience to the task of helping to educate a new generation of nuclear/radiochemists and separation scientists.

As 21st century human society wrestles with the growing awareness that global warming might constitute a serious threat to the livability of planet earth, the great potential of fission-based nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is returning to the forefront of public thought. However, nuclear power cannot contribute more significantly to solving the problem of global warming without a viable solution of the problems (real and perceived) of nuclear power – waste management, safety, efficiency and security. The long-term potential of nuclear fission for energy production becomes almost unlimited if we breed additional fuel from the predominant fertile isotopes of uranium and thorium, and more fully realize the potential value of other useful byproducts. To fulfill this potential, it is essential that we develop the knowledge necessary to protect the biosphere from the hazards associated with this technology. Central to finding solutions to these problems is gaining a more complete understanding of the chemistry of the long-lived radioactive materials that are created as byproducts of nuclear fission – actinides and fission products. Our research group focuses its efforts on developing new insights into the chemistry of f elements (actinides and lanthanides) through investigations of the fundamental solution chemistry of the metal ions. At the core of our research are studies of the kinetics and thermodynamics of the interactions of actinides and lanthanides with (man-made and naturally-occurring) chelating agents and redox active species in aqueous and organic solutions. One key feature of this chemistry that is incompletely understood is the influence of solute-solvent interactions on the progress of complex formation/dissociation and oxidation/reduction reactions of these ions. Another is the interrelationship between ligand structure, the numbers and nature of ligand donor atoms in a multidentate chelating agent, cation bonding strength, and selectivity, each important aspects of a successful separation. Biphasic reactions of the sort associated with solvent extraction reactions are particularly interesting. The process of transforming metal ions from hydrated free or complexed ions in water to the hydrophobic forms required for miscibility in organic solvents is characterized by many changes in both the local environment of the metal cation and its extended surroundings. Though our primary emphasis is on metal separations reactions, studies of this chemistry have implications beyond that of metal ion separation science. Increased understanding of the energetics of metal ions crossing phase boundaries (in particular, the hydrophilic-hydrophobic interactions that occur in every solvent extraction reaction) can provide important insights for related phenomena in the environment or in living systems. Furthermore, the chemical and nuclear properties of lanthanides and actinides provide a particularly diverse range of options for probing the chemical features of these reactions.

We emphasize the use of radioanalytical chemistry (that is, the use of radioactive materials at low concentrations) in our research program, but also have facilities and capabilities for conducting research on radioactive materials at concentrations amenable to the application of conventional analytical methods. We are most interested in exploring the rates and mechanisms of reactions occurring in the millisecond-seconds regime using stopped-flow spectrophotometry and NMR relaxation techniques, and in studying the thermochemistry of these reactions using potentiometry, electrochemistry, calorimetry, and (of course) radiochemistry.


  • E.O. Otu, R. Chiarizia, P.G. Rickert and K. L. Nash, “The Extraction of Americium and Strontium by P,P’-Di(2-ethylhexyl)benzene-1,2-diphosphonic Acid”, Solvent Extraction & Ion Exchange 20, 607-632 (2002)
  • K. L. Nash, C. Lavallette, M. Borkowski, R. T. Paine, X. Gan, “Thermodynamics of the Extraction of Am(III) And Eu(III) By 2,6-Bis[(di-2-ethylhexyldiphosphino)methyl]pyridine-N,P,P’-trioxide”, Inorganic Chemistry 41, 5849-5858, (2002)
  • K. L. Nash, M. P. Jensen, “Analytical-Scale Separations of the Lanthanides: A Review of Techniques and Fundamentals”, Separation Science and Technology 36, 1257-1282 (2001)
  • J. N. Mathur, M. S. Murali, K. L. Nash, “Actinide Partitioning – A Review”, Solvent Extraction & Ion Exchange 19, 357-390 (2001)
  • J. I. Friese, K. L. Nash, M. P. Jensen, J. C. Sullivan, “Interaction of Np(V) And U(VI) with Dipicolinic Acid”, Radiochimica Acta, 89, 35-41 (2001)