Institute of Radioecology and Radiation Protection Research Research projects
Investigation of the transfer behavior of americium species in crop plants using radiochemical and mass spectrometric methods

Investigation of the transfer behavior of americium species in crop plants using radiochemical and mass spectrometric methods

Team:  Dr. Michael Steppert, Julia Stadler
Year:  2018
Funding:  Siebold-Sasse-Stiftung (
Duration:  01.03.2018 – 28.02.2021

About the project

Americium-241 with its half-life of 432.2 a represents an environmentally relevant radionuclide in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Due to being a decay product of Plutonium-241 with a shorter half-life of 14.35 a, Americium-241 represents the dominating alpha emitter in the contaminated areas. Via the contaminated soil, crop plants could take up the radiotoxic nuclide, which is a potential pathway into the human nutrition chain. Therefore, gaining knowledge and insight into the soil-plant transfer processes and its impact factors are highly relevant.


Beside the use of plants for nutrition of animals and humans, they can also serve for phytoremediation of contaminated soil. For this purpose, it is of great importance to know about the ingested amounts and impact factors of the radio- and partly chemotoxic compounds. Thus, the investigation of the transfer behavior for the Americium-241, which shows under certain conditions a high mobility in soil, is of great importance.

First experiments will be done with the homologue for trivalent actinides Europium(III) to get more knowledge about the plant transfer behavior. Therefore, different crop plants will be grown in a liquid nutrition medium, the Hoagland solution, and analyzed with several spectroscopic and mass spectrometric methods. Thereby, the focus lies on a combined analysis with DESI MS (desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry) and TRLFS (time-resolved laser fluorescence spectroscopy) for the direct speciation. For the support and affirmation of europium species, the HPLC (high liquid chromatography) coupled to a high-resolution orbitrap mass spectrometer will be implemented into upcoming experiments. With a successful developed method, the analysis is going to be applied to Americium-241 contaminated plants.

In the end, the identified species will support the understanding of plant metabolism of Americium and the trivalent actinides. Thus, the toxicity associated with the species can be determined, which is an important contribution to the food safety of contaminated crops, especially in Chernobyl.