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Author: Subject: Amateur synthesis of plutonium?
Assured Fish
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Amateur synthesis of plutonium?

Hello my nuclear friends, first a word of warning my nuclear physics knowledge is somewhat lacking as i prefer the realms of organic chemistry however i non the less am very curious about the nucleus and how one would go about synthesizing a nucleus from other nucleus's.
I would also like to point out that i by no means want to use plutonium 239 to make any weapons either fission fusion or poison based, i am merely interested in synthesizing plutonium because well its mother fucken plutonium, I also don't really care if its highly contaminated with plutonium 40 or any other somewhat useless isotopes.
I am sure that there are some government officials out there that would call me a terrorist for merely asking about this but we would need minimum around 1 kg of plutonium 239 to achieve any kind of critical mass and i only really expect anyone using this method to produce 10-20mg or fuck if it was really successful a gram, perhaps this is me dreaming too hard. To put it simply this is a life long goal and one that i do not intend to begin practical work on for a good couple of years yet, after all i barely understand the basics.

And so i have an idea although i doubt its an original one but i have never been able to find much info on such a process (probably because its kinda dodgy insane and expensive).
Could an individual with access to large quantities of deuterium, use said deuterium in a fusion reactor to generate neutrons and then with the aid of perhaps electromagnets or mirrors or perhaps both, accelerate and direct the generated neutrons into a neutron beam which could then be targeted at some uranium dioxide over the coarse of a rather long period of time im guessing, to synthesize a small quantity of plutonium which may then be isolated from the uranium.

I am first a little confused as to how a fusion reactor works because i thought that deuturium had to be fussed with tritium producing helium 5 which then gave up a neutron to helium 4, so could someone please elaborate as to how a farnsworth fusor works without a large supply of tritium?
The next thing i am confused about is creating a neutron beam itself, neutrons are neutral of course and have no charge and thus i don't know if electromagnets work in order to accelerate and direct them but if it is possible then in what way would the electromagnets have to be facing i.e. does the magnetic field have to move in the direction that we want to accelerate the neutrons?
The collision is the next thing that i am curious about, in nuclear reactors the neutrons must travel at a certain speed in order to achieve the most collisions with the target nucleus and this is done by use of moderator which is often water, this slows down the neutron enough for it to collide with the desired nucleus.
Also what would be the best way for us to organize uranium oxide in order to get the highest yield possible of plutonium 239 i.e. would we want to put it in layers with space in between or just a large bulk of our uranium in the middle of the neutron beam.

The next obvious problem is preparing the uranium itself, i am thinking that you would need to first react your crushed uranium ore with nitric acid to get uranyl nitrate and then filter and boiling off the acid and then heating the uranyl nitrate in a tube furnace with a flow of oxygen at 400*C to 600*C to get uranium mixed oxides (for the purpose of this discussion we will simply call it uranium trioxide) which would then have to be reduced in a similar manner by a flow of hydrogen over the trioxide in a tube furnace at 700*C.

Then of coarse the isolation of plutonium or a plutonium salt from the uranium. When uranium 238 is hit by the neutron it forms uranium 239 which then undergoes beta decay to Neptunium 239 followed by further beta decay to plutonium 239. uranium 239 has a half life of 23.45 minutes and neptunium 239 has a half life of 2.356 days then i suspect we will need to leave the uranium plutonium neptunium and other unknown elements mixture for a couple of months to ensure that all or most of the neptunium has decayed to plutonium.
After this we would need to isolate our plutonium by first dissolving again into nitric acid to get uranium nitrate and of coarse plutonium nitrate, now i googled the shit out of this but had serious trouble finding any details of the oxidation states of plutonium that i could get access to freely, the best i could do was unfortunately:
http://ieer.org/resource/factsheets/plutonium-factsheet/

Im guessing since the oxidation state of plutonium dioxide is 4+ then once we dissolve this in nitric acid then the oxidation state should remain at 4+ since we have not introduced any reducing agents and if anything nitric acid is an oxidizer and thus we will still have plutonium 4 nitrate Pu(NO3)4.
Plutonium in its 4+ oxidation state is soluble in a mixture of Tributyl phosphate and kerosene as a 10-40% solution, and thus as described in this video we could 'i assume' extract the plutonium nitrate from the aqueous solution of uranium nitrate without any uranium making it into the kerosene solution:
Next we would need to reduce the Pu(NO3)4 to Pu(NO3)3 in the kerosene TBP solution, In the video he uses hydrxylamine nitrate or hydroxyammonium nitrate which i guess is just the nitric acid salt of hydroxylamine, after we had reduced the plutonium to 3+ it would then be insoluble in the kerosene TBP mixture and could be extracted with H2O and the h20 evaporated to get our crude or hopefully pure plutonium 3 nitrate.
From here im guessing the same reduction would have to be done as with the uranium nitrate with hydrogen however i have absolutely no clue as to how hot the condition would have to be.
Unfortunately because naked plutonium metal reacts with atmospheric oxygen i don't know how easily we could handle its naked metal but if we were able to reduce it down to its naked metal under an inert atmosphere then we could simply melt the plutonium metal at 640*C into a bead which we could put into an appropriate storage container, the formation of oxide which have much higher melting points might make this rather difficult however.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroxylammonium_nitrate
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tributyl_phosphate
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotopes_of_neptunium
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotopes_of_uranium
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_dioxide

[Edited on 19-3-2017 by Assured Fish]
BlackDragon2712
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In my list of "not to mess around" chemicals plutonium is scratching the top... though making a fusor... a Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor is a very interesting concept.... maybe you should start from there.

Though consider that the highest amount of neutrons produced by a deuterium-deuterium fusor ever was 3×10^11 neutrons per second... I'm very confident that the actual ammount of neutrons you would produce in a household made fusor reactor would be much lower... if any.
phlogiston
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There is no way you'll make a visible amount.
However, a detectable amount is perhaps attainable.

https://carlwillis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/a-little-bit-of-...

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Assured Fish
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 Quote: In my list of "not to mess around" chemicals plutonium is scratching the top... though making a fusor... a Farnsworth–Hirsch fusor is a very interesting concept.... maybe you should start from there.

I can imagine plutonium probably scares the pants of most chemists given its apparent toxicity, but many amateur chemists on this forum including myself have handled excessively dangerous chemicals before, for me it was mercury nitrate. Given that mercuric and lead salts are the kinda chemicals that afford precisely no error what so ever; surely then plutonium and i guess uranium salts would be treated with the same caution. I realize that plutonium would likely need to be treated (even just for principle sake) with a bit more safety precautions than the others in that a glove box would likely need to be the go to as opposed to a fume hood or like when i made mercury nitrate; with a fan blowing anything in the opposite direction to me. None of these salts are volatile what so ever and the only risk they pose when it comes to exposure through the air would be from dust although given how dense plutonium salts are likely to be, this probably poses considerably less risk than any of the other salts i mentioned.

Also something to note is that many researchers have handled plutonium and its salts in the open atmosphere without exposure e.g. The so called demon core which was a large sub critical mass of plutonium which the researchers at the time stood in the same room with, without high ventilation and without fear of exposure to plutonium particles.
Another example is from YouTube where in the plutonium video which i will link again, the professor whose name escapes me describes his lecturer Alfie Maddock spilling a 10mg sample of plutonium (i suspect in solution) on a table top and then sawing around this mess which would mean that he was handling it outside of a gloves box and probably a fume hood, he then burnt the wooden table top that he had sawed which if anything would have vaporized the particles into the atmosphere, yet he was still able to retrieve 9.5mg of the sample thus indicating that exposure to plutonium salts through the atmosphere isn't really a viable route of exposure.
Thus it leaves the only real means of danger to the chemist handling this stuff as dermal exposure; which any reasonably experienced chemist should be able to avoid with ease.

Now lets say nobody actually has the balls to try and actually synthesize plutonium on an amateur scale, then could we simply entertain the idea and explore how we could go about doing so in theory.
I also very much intend to make a Farnsworth fusor at some point in the near future even if I actually never intend to go through with this bat shit insane idea. I should also point out that upon reading through my siblings that this may have come off somewhat defensive or combative but by no means was this intended.

 Quote: Though consider that the highest amount of neutrons produced by a deuterium-deuterium fusor ever was 3×10^11 neutrons per second... I'm very confident that the actual ammount of neutrons you would produce in a household made fusor reactor would be much lower... if any.

I think i understand how the Farnsorth reactor works now with just deuterium, The deuterium fuses with another deuterium forming either stable helium 4 or more likely an unstable helium 4 which then gives off either a photon, x ray or a neutron to helium 3.
300 billion neutrons doesn't sound like alot but this is of coarse per second and if we were able to use the correct modulator (which from what ive read would actually have to be a hydrocarbon) then we could make use of a rather large sum of the neutrons that are emitted, but perhaps there is a better way of generating neutrons than by deuterium deuterium fusion if someone could suggest it.

Sigma sell deuterium for $242 for a 10 Liter steel canister which i suspect should last a pretty long period of time and we could likely find it cheaper given that sigma products are usually way over priced, deuterium oxide is normally$1 a gram which would then need to be hydrolyzed. I searched around for some tritium oxide and tritium gas but i don't think im gonna be ably to find much except small tritium batteries that NerdRage used in his video which i don't think contained anymore than maybe 10-20mg if that, which isn't really a viable option which i guess just leaves us with deuterium deuterium fusion for now.
Could you possibly link me to the reactor that was able to produce the 300 billion neutrons per second, perhaps that reactor design might be more suited to this endevour and hopefully repeatable on an amateur level.

And also another question; is it at all possible for us to theoretically calculate the number of collisions provided of coarse we knew the rate of neutrons being generated and the speed at which these neutrons are travelling and the mass of our target etc?
Assured Fish
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 Quote: There is no way you'll make a visible amount. However, a detectable amount is perhaps attainable. Read this: https://carlwillis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/a-little-bit-of-...

I love you.
This reference at the very least is highly encouraging, but also perhaps highlights some other interesting products of the neutron irradiation of uranium. Thank you
BlackDragon2712
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 Quote: Originally posted by Assured Fish I should also point out that upon reading through my siblings that this may have come off somewhat defensive or combative but by no means was this intended.

I do understand... but I never said you shouldn't do it... I have worked with dangerous materials as well so I do understand when someone tells you you shouldn't do something haha

 Quote: Originally posted by Assured Fish Could you possibly link me to the reactor that was able to produce the 300 billion neutrons per second, perhaps that reactor design might be more suited to this endevour and hopefully repeatable on an amateur level.

I thinks that's way out of the scope of the amateur... but still here it is:
http://phoenixnuclearlabs.com/phoenix-nuclear-labs-meets-neu...
PirateDocBrown
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The demon core ended up killing some of the scientists handling it, FWIW.

But there's other ways to get neutrons for transmutation. An alpha source, like old radium clock dial paint or americium from old smoke detectors can be mixed with beryllium to make neutrons. A simple columnator to focus these to a target could be fashioned out of a heavy metal, like lead. Aim this at a natural uranium or thorium target for some extended time, and I'm quite sure you would get transmutation to heavier actinides, maybe even enough to be detected. Once fertile gets converted to fissile, more neutron bombardment will be multiplied by fission, making still more transmutation. Enough of this, and fission products could become detectable, too.
BlackDragon2712
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The last time someone tried that, it didn't go well as we can recall... I still belive that the idea of a fusor as the neutron source is the best way to go since it's more controllable in the sense that it can actually be turned off... and trying to collect enough alpha sources would be harder than making a fusor imho

[Edited on 05/12/2013 by BlackDragon2712]
Assured Fish
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 Quote: The demon core ended up killing some of the scientists handling it, FWIW.

The demon core did not kill people because of the toxicity of the plutonium which was my point, it killed people because it went critical for a few seconds. I think someone spilled something on it like water which slowed some neutrons down.
BlackDragon2712
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Quote: Originally posted by Assured Fish

 Quote: The demon core ended up killing some of the scientists handling it, FWIW.

The demon core did not kill people because of the toxicity of the plutonium which was my point, it killed people because it went critical for a few seconds. I think someone spilled something on it like water which slowed some neutrons down.

It was a wolframium brick which reflected enough neutrons to sustain a critical reaction for a few seconds ... the amount of neutrons released was so big that the air in the surround got ionized and it turned blue ... very scary stuff

 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Special topics » Radiochemistry » Amateur synthesis of plutonium? Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication   » References Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues   » Whimsy   » Detritus   » The Moderators' Lounge