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Peter Burns

Peter C. Burns

Email: pburns@nd.edu

Phone: 574-631-7852


Ph.D, University of Manitoba, 1994

M.S., Geology, University of Western Ontario, 1990

B.S., University of New Brunswick, 1988


Ph.D. Thesis: The Stereochemistry of Cu2+ Oxysalt Minerals: An Ab Initio Molecular-Orbital Approach

M.Sc. Thesis: Tetrahedral-Site Ordering in Synthetic Gallium Albite

B.Sc. Thesis: Hexaborates From the Cassidy Lake Formation, Sussex, New Brunswick

Professional Experience

Committees to Render Scientific Judgement


Recent Publication

Sigmon, G.E., Ling, J., Unruh, D.K., Moore-Shay, L., Ward, M., Weaver, B. & Burns, P.C.: Uranyl-peroxide interactions favor nano-cluster self-assembly. Journal of the American Chemical Society 131, 16648-16649.
Sigmon, G.E., Weaver, B., Kubatko, K.A. & Burns, P.C. (2009): Crown and bowl-shaped clusters of uranyl polyhedra. Inorganic Chemistry 48, 10907-10909.
Gorman-Lewis, D., Shvareva, T., Kubatko, K.A., Burns, P.C., Wellman, D.M., McNamara, B., Szymanowski, J.E.S., Navrotsky, A. & Fein, J.B. (2009): Thermodynamic properties of autunite, uranyl hydrogen phosphate, and uranyl orthophosphate from solubility and calorimetric measurements. Environmental Science and Technology 43, 7416-7422.
Sigmon, G., Unruh, D.K., Ling, J., Weaver, B., Ward, M., Pressprich, L., Simonetti, A. & Burns, P.C. (2009): Symmetry vs. minimal pentagonal adjacencies in uranium-based polyoxometalate fullerene topologies. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 48, 2737-2740. Highlighted in Nature March 20, 2009.
Unruh, D., Burtner, A. & Burns, P.C. (2009): Monodentate peroxide coordination in trimers of U6+ polyhedra. Inorganic Chemistry 48, 2346-2348.
Schindler, M., Freund, M., Hawthorne, F.C., Burns, P.C. and Maurice, P.A. (2009): Dissolution of uranophane: An AFM, XPS, SEM and ICP study. Ge ochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, 2510-2533.
Schindler, M., Hawthorne, F.C., Freund, M.S. and Burns, P.C. (2009): XPS spectra of uranyl-minerals and synthetic uranyl compounds II. The O 1s spectrum. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, 2488-2509.
Schindler, M., Hawthorne, F.C., Freund, M.S. & Burns, P.C. (2009): XPS spectra of uranyl minerals and synthetic uranyl compounds I. The U 4f spectrum. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, 2471-2487.

Summary of Activities/Interests

Peter C. Burns has focused most of his research over the past decade on the solid-state chemistry, mineralogy, and environmental chemistry of uranium, as well as the transuranic elements neptunium and plutonium.

In 2005 the Burns research group published the first of a family of novel uranyl peroxide hydroxide spherical nanoclusters. To date, we have reported the synthesis and structures of nanoclusters containing 24, 28, 32, 40 and 50 uranium atoms. Additional papers will be forthcoming that report U16, U20 (multiple topologies), U24 (open), U36, U44 and U60. We will also be completing a "roadmap" for the synthesis of specific members of this complex family of actinide nano-scale clusters.

The Burns group has published extensively in uranium mineralogy, and has reported the crystal structures of dozens of uranyl minerals including autunite, bijvoetite, vandendriesscheite, wolsendorfite, boltwoodite, compreignacite, masuyite, haweeite, weeksite, fontanite, billietite, richetite, zippeite, and studtite.

The structure of studtite, reported by Burns and Kubatko (2003) is the first structure of a peroxide mineral, and the only one published to date. As reported by Kubatko et al. (2003) in Science, studtite forms in nature where radioactivity causes the formation of peroxide in water. Studtite was the first structure found that involved shared edges between any uranyl peroxide polyhedra, and the Burns group later developed a complex group of nano-structured uranium materials based upon this linkage.

The Burns group has examined the impacts of uranium mineralogy on the release of radionuclides from nuclear waste in a geological repository, such as Yucca Mountain. Much of the emphasis has been on neptunium, as it has a long half-life and is potentially mobile in the environment.

Burns has published extensively on borate mineralogy, copper minerals, and a variety of exotic new minerals. He has published structural hierarchies for borate minerals, sulfate minerals, inorganic uranium compounds, and inorganic neptunium compounds.


Notre Dame Researchers Work to Improve Nuclear Waste Recycling

June 21, 2017

Researchers within the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame are thinking creatively about problems surrounding nuclear materials as they search for solutions to reduce waste, decrease the cost of nuclear energy production, and increase efficiency and safety of the entire process.

Searching for Uranium in the Copper State

June 16, 2017

In retrospect, it seems a little funny that three of Dr. Amy Hixon’s graduate students travelled to the Copper State to look for uranium. But as it turns out, there is quite a bit of uranium in Arizona, and these three students have found it where it shouldn’t be. With the help of the GLOBES program and the John J. Reilly Center, Teresa Baumer, Nicole Moore, and Meena Said have analyzed soil samples from the Navajo Nation to determine whether the soil was contaminated with uranium.

Are Uranium Clusters the Key to Cleaner Nuclear Energy?

January 31, 2017

“Those ones are obviously part of our Christmas celebration. They also participate in our Thanksgiving display and our Easter display. They get reworked into every display.” Professor Peter Burns, who is wearing a yellow vest and has the demeanor of a warm-hearted jokester, points to a collection of colorful polyhedrons surrounding a miniature Christmas tree on display outside his lab in Stinson-Remick Hall at the University of Notre Dame.

Burns to Receive Peacock Medal from the Mineralogical Association of Canada

May 5, 2016

Peter C. Burns has been selected as the 2016 Peacock Medal recipient by the Mineralogical Association of Canada.