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Dale Russell, Ph.D.

Dale Russell, Chemistry, studio portraitProfessor

Analytical Chemistry
Office: SCNC 316
Phone: (208) 426-3975

Patents and Selected Publications

Research focus: Remediation of nuclear wastes and contaminated mine sites; Design of field portable chemical sensors; Forensic analysis of materials/trace evidence

Educational Background

University of Arizona, M.S. and Ph.D. (Chemistry)
University of California Davis, B.S. (English)

About Me

I’ve earned a 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a 2nd degree black belt in Kung Fu. I really enjoy high altitude mountaineering, rock and ice climbing.


These projects have been generously funded by federal agencies such as NSF, DOE, NIH, ACS and also by private and corporate sources such as the Battelle Energy Alliance.

The Russell Research Group has four active projects.

1. Electrochemistry of the Actinides; Developing methods of actinide extraction from nuclear waste.

There is high interested in developing a closed nuclear fuel cycle. In order to achieve this goal it is essential to remove all radionuclides from the waste streams, and either recycle them into energy production, or transmute them to nonradioactive elements. One impediment is the presence of relatively high concentrations of lanthanide species. This is certainly one of the most challenging problems ever, in chemical separations, due to the similarity in both size and charge of actinide and lanthanide soluble species. We investigate ligand specificity and extraction efficiency at the fundamental level and are investigating the hypothesis that a small increase in metalligand bond covalency contributes to enhanced selectivity of certain ligands for the actinide species. To test this hypothesis, it is necessary to put all elements into the same oxidation state. We are developing electrochemical methods for producing unusual oxidation states of these elements, either oxidizing lanthanides and minor actinides to higher states, and also reducing uranium, thorium and plutonium to lower oxidation states. Electron transfer reaction mechanisms are being elucidated by cyclic voltammetric analysis. This work has been conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory.

2. Electrochemical Sensors for heavy metals, organics and arsenic species.

There is urgent need for field portable analytical instrumentation for the detection and quantitation of chemical species in water. Applications include on site analysis of drinking water, waste and process waters, surface and ground waters. This is an on-going project focused on the development of electrochemical sensors for several target analytes including heavy metals such as mercury, uranium, and plutonium, organic contaminants, biologically important molecules such as catechols, and inorganic species such as arsenic ions. Highly selective binding sites are designed for the target analyte, and built into the surface of a semi conductive polymer. This polymer is then incorporated into a sensor suitable for hand held or autonomous operation. For some species, molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are prepared for polyatomic analyte species. Sensors have been demonstrated for water-soluble species of mercury, uranium, thorium and plutonium. A sensor for benzene-like molecules and their metabolites has been demonstrated. Similar devices for detection of other selected VOCs and water soluble species of arsenic are being developed. Designs have been prepared for MIP-based sensors for chemical warfare agents. This multidisciplinary project combines efforts with electrical engineering and materials science departments to build field portable instrumentation for rapid detection of the target analytes.

3. Protein Characterization by Electrical Field Flow Fractionation (EFFF)

About 25 to 30% of the human genome encodes for membrane-bound and other lipophilic proteins, yet they have proven difficult to isolate in functional form for study. The conventional methods such as electrophoresis were developed for hydrophilic proteins and do not readily apply to hydrophobic proteins. We have developed and demonstrated non-polar EFFF as a viable means of separating membrane proteins and of characterizing them with respect to size and surface charge. The hypothesis is that a non-polar environment during the separation would conserve the native conformation and enzyme activity. The research team working on this project extracts proteins from biological membranes and uses EFFF to isolate them. Based on the retention data obtained, charge, size, zeta potential and electrophoretic mobility can be determined for these molecules. Our hypothesis is that this lowstress separation technique in nonpolar medium will protect the native conformation and preserve enzyme activity. We intend to test this hypothesis via biochemical kinetic experiments.

4. Electrodeposition of Metals for Magnetic Shape Memory Alloys

This is a new project and grant proposals to support it are still pending. To evaluate the feasibility of using electrochemical deposition to produce a high MSMA response alloy, we will expand fundamental understanding of the electrochemistry of alloy deposition of MSMA thin films and explore the structure and magneto-mechanical properties of ECD MSMA thin films. To achieve this goal, we will pursue three objectives:

  1. Optimize Electrochemical Deposition Procedure— Determine the optimum parameter set and conditions for electrochemical deposition of a threemetal MSMA. Methods considered include cyclic voltametry (CV), Rotating Disk Electrode (RDE), pulse and AC methods and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM). Optimum chemistry and conditions will be determined.
  2. Characterize Material — Examine polycrystalline thin film microstructure, alloy composition, texture and atomic structure.
  3. Demonstrate MSMA Response — Demonstrate polycrystalline thin film magneto-mechanic properties, and phase transformation and mechanics.

This proposed research is potentially transformative in its impact on the microelectronic industry and future microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) product design.