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Crystalline precipitates from molybdenum-containing nuclear waste glasses are complex, often containing multiple cations which confound routine structural techniques. A simplified mixed-alkali borosilicate model glass was found to have minor crystalline phases which could not be identified by x-ray diffraction. Multinuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy revealed sharp peaks characteristic of crystallinity superimposed on the broader glass signals, but were unattributable to any known molybdate phases. When a comprehensive range of cesium molybdates failed to reveal any matches with the observed 133Cs magic-angle spinning (MAS) NMR peaks in the composite glass/crystalline material, a series of mixed-alkali sodium-cesium molybdate phases was synthesized. 23Na, 133Cs and 95Mo MAS NMR revealed the formation of two mixed-cation molybdates which correlate with the observed NMR peaks for the phase-separated model glass. This work highlights the prominence of multiple crystalline phases in Mo-bearing nuclear waste glasses, and demonstrates the unique utility of solid-state NMR as a fingerprinting approach to identifying complex phases, especially where x-ray diffraction is limited by multiple phases, low concentrations or substitutionally disordered precipitates.
95Mo magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS NMR) spectroscopy is surprisingly sensitive to the local environment of tetrahedral molybdate species. A series of compounds related to expected crystallization products in nuclear waste glasses are probed to calibrate their spectral characteristics. Glasses formed with fast and slow quenching show a glassy peak corresponding to tetrahedral molybdate species. With slow quenching, a prominent sharp peak is observed, representing crystallinity. In sodium-borosilicate glasses with 2.5 mol% MoO3, the sharp peak corresponds to pure crystalline sodium molybdate. Cesium-sodium and lithium-sodium borosilicate glasses with Mo show crystalline peaks as well, and suggest that NMR may potentially be used to characterize mixed-cation molydates and more complex phase assemblages. While precise quantification of Mo in different phases is likely to be time-consuming, reasonable estimates can be obtained routinely, making 95Mo MAS NMR a useful tool for investigating phase separation and crystallization in model nuclear waste materials.
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