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Dr Monica Felipe-Sotelo

Lecturer in Radiation and Analytical Chemistry
+44 (0)1483 686837
15 AZ 03

Academic and research departments

Department of Chemistry.


Research interests

  • Creation of reliable spectral databases for the characterisation of radionuclide solid phases:
    • Investigation of radionuclide mineralisation under environmental and repository conditions.
    • Comprehensive characterisation of solid phases by XRD, EXAFS, XANES, TRLFS, FTIR, Raman and ion beam techniques.
  • Study of the dynamics of radionuclides under environmental conditions:
    • Improvement of purification procedures leading to selective and sensitive methods for the determination of radionuclides at ultra-trace levels by ICP-MS .
    • Investigation of procedures for the removal of isobaric interferences on ICP-MS.
  • Development of non-separative speciation schemes by combination of advanced spectroscopic techniques and multivariate statistics

My publications


Felipe-Sotelo Monica, Hinchliff J, Field LP, Milodowski AE, Preedy O, Read David (2017) Retardation of uranium and thorium by a cementitious backfill developed for radioactive waste disposal, Chemosphere 179 pp. 127-138 Elsevier
The solubility of uranium and thorium has been measured under the conditions anticipated in a cementitious, geological disposal facility for low and intermediate level radioactive waste. Similar solubilities were obtained for thorium in all media, comprising NaOH, Ca(OH)2 and water equilibrated with a cement designed as repository backfill (NRVB, Nirex Reference Vault Backfill). In contrast, the solubility of U(VI) was one order of magnitude higher in NaOH than in the remaining solutions. The presence of cellulose degradation products (CDP) results in a comparable solubility increase for both elements. Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (EXAFS) data suggest that the solubility-limiting phase for uranium corresponds to a becquerelite-type solid whereas thermodynamic modelling predicts a poorly crystalline, hydrated calcium uranate phase. The solubility-limiting phase for thorium was ThO2 of intermediate crystallinity. No breakthrough of either uranium or thorium was observed in diffusion experiments involving NRVB after three years. Nevertheless, backscattering electron microscopy and microfocus X-ray fluorescence confirmed that uranium had penetrated about 40µm into the cement, implying active diffusion governed by slow dissolution-precipitation kinetics. Precise identification of the uranium solid proved difficult, displaying characteristics of both calcium uranate and becquerelite.
Isaacs M, Hinchliff J, Felipe-Sotelo M, Read D (2017) Factors affecting the suitability of superplasticiser-amended cement for the encapsulation of radioactive waste, Advances in Cement Research 1700099 pp. 1-15 Thomas Telford (ICE Publishing)
Organic superplasticisers improve the flow properties of cement, offering operational advantages for the disposal of radioactive wastes. However, there are concerns that they could increase the mobility of encapsulated contaminants significantly. The effect of polycarboxylate ether superplasticisers on the solubility of Ni(II), Am(III), Pu(IV) and U(VI) in two cement-equilibrated waters (ordinary Portland cement/pulverised fuel ash (OPC/PFA) and OPC/ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS)) has been assessed. The study included four commercial superplasticisers, three adjuncts (a de-foaming agent, biocide and viscosity modifier) and a bespoke, synthesised superplasticiser from which residual monomer had been removed by dialysis. The commercial products (0·5% w/w dosage) had a much greater effect on metal solubility than the dialysed equivalent, increasing solubility by 2?3 orders of magnitude. As the adjuncts alone showed no effect, the difference between the commercial and synthesised superplasticisers is attributed to small molecules, primarily residual monomers, in the commercial formulations owing to incomplete polymerisation. The distribution of radionuclides in hardened cement pastes corresponds closely to the distribution of superplasticiser, as shown by 14C-labelling in combination with digital autoradiography and accounting for the bleed observed for certain slag-rich formulations.
Water from La Pampa, Argentina, was used for washing and cooking rice to examine the in-situ impact of using naturally-contaminated water for food preparation on the elemental dietary intake. Whilst washing with the control tap water (28 mg/L As) reduced the concentration of As in rice by 23%, the use of different well waters (281-1144 mg/L) increased As levels significantly (48-227%) in comparison with the original concentration in the rice (0.056 µg/g). Cooking the rice at a low water-to-rice ratio (2:1) using modern methods increased the levels of As in the cooked samples by 2-3 orders of magnitude for both pre-washed and un-washed rice. Similar trends were observed for vanadium. Although the levels of manganese, iron, copper, zinc and molybdenum in rice were reduced during washing and cooking for most water samples, the molybdenum concentration in the cooked rice doubled (2.2-2.9 µg/g) when using water containing >1 mg/L Mo.
Bond Thomas, Ferrandiz-Mas V, Felipe-Sotelo Monica, van Sebille E (2018) The Occurrence and Degradation of Aquatic Plastic Litter Based on Polymer Physicochemical Properties: a Review, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology Taylor & Francis
The whereabouts of the overwhelming majority of plastic estimated to enter the environment is unknown. This study?s aim was to combine information about the environmental occurrence and physicochemical properties of widespread polymers to predict the fate of aquatic plastic litter. Polyethylene and polypropylene are common in the surface layer and shorelines; polyester and cellulosic fibres in sewage treatment works, estuarine and deep-sea sediments. Overall, non-buoyant polymers are underrepresented on the ocean surface. Three main explanations are proposed for the missing plastic. The first is accumulation of both buoyant and non-buoyant polymers in sewage treatment works, river and estuarine sediments and along shorelines. The second is settling of non-buoyant polymers into the deep-sea. The third is fragmentation of both buoyant and non-buoyant polymers into particles smaller than captured by existing experimental methods. Some isolation techniques may overrepresent larger, buoyant particles; methodological improvements are needed to capture the full size-range of plastic litter. When microplastics fragment they become neutrally-buoyant, thus nanoplastics are potentially widely dispersed in aquatic systems, both horizontally and vertically. Ultimately, over decades or longer, plastics are potentially solubilized and subsequently biodegraded. The rates at which these processes apply to plastic litter in different environmental compartments remain largely unknown.
The levels of arsenic (total and species) and other trace elements in natural waters of Argentina were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). In addition, a method was developed for the determination of Mo in waters using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS) with an added palladium chemical modifier. The analysis of Mo in certified reference materials and water samples using both methods confirmed no statistical difference using a paired t-test (tcal = 0.276; tcrit = 2.160, df: 14 at p south-east La Pampa (17.66-319.39 ¼g/l) > southern Buenos Aires (39.6-189.4 ¼g/l) > Río Negro/Río Colorado (1.03-38.66 ¼g/l). The distribution of As species (using a field-based solid phase extraction method) were significantly different between the sampling regions. In most of the study areas the groundwater exceeded 10 ¼g/l AsT (World Health Organisation guideline for drinking water) and can be deemed to be not fit for human consumption since the calculated hazard quotient (HQ) >1. Apart from As, Mo and V also showed higher levels in groundwaters relating to the historical deposition of volcanic ash within the Chaco-Pampean plain of Argentina. The groundwaters from La Pampa ranged from 10 to 84 ¼g/l Mo. Surprisingly, one farm well south of Eduardo Castex (central-northern La Pampa) used for cattle drinking water had 1381.66 ¼g/l Mo. Significant positive correlations were found for As, Mo and V between groundwaters used on agricultural lands and the associated soils and pastures.The arsenic concentrations in groundwaters were found to be statistically correlated (r > 0.5) with the corresponding soils (total and exchangeable fraction) and plants (leaves and roots) at p
Felipe-Sotelo Monica, Edgar M., Beattie T., Warwick P., Evans N.D.M., Read David (2015) Effect of anthropogenic organic complexants on the solubility of Ni, Th, U(IV) and U(VI), Journal of Hazardous Materials 300 pp. 553-560
The influence of anthropogenic organic complexants (citrate, EDTA and DTPA from 0.005 to 0.1 M) on the solubility of nickel(II), thorium(IV) and uranium (U(IV) and U(VI)) has been studied. Experiments were carried out in 95%-saturated Ca(OH)2 solutions, representing the high pH conditions anticipated in the near field of a cementitious intermediate level radioactive waste repository. Results showed that Ni(II) solubility increased by 2?4 orders of magnitude in the presence of EDTA and DTPA and from 3 to 4 orders of magnitude in the case of citrate. Citrate had the greatest effect on the solubility of Th(IV) and U(IV)/(VI). XRD and SEM analyses indicate that the precipitates are largely amorphous; only in the case of Ni(II), is there some evidence of incipient crystallinity, in the form of Ni(OH)2 (theophrastite). A study of the effect of calcium suggests that U(VI) and Ni(II) may form metal-citrate-OH complexes stabilised by Ca2+. Thermodynamic modelling underestimates the concentrations in solution in the presence of the ligands for all the elements considered here. Further investigation of the behaviour of organic ligands under hyperalkaline conditions is important because of the use of the thermodynamic constants in preparing the safety case for the geological disposal of radioactive wastes.
Felipe-Sotelo Monica, Hinchliff J., Evans N.D.M., Read D. (2016) Solubility constraints affecting the migration of selenium through the cementitious backfill of a geological disposal facility, Journal of Hazardous Materials 305 pp. 21-29 Elsevier
This work presents the study of the solubility of selenium under cementitious conditions and its diffusion, as SeO32?, through monolithic cement samples. The solubility studies were carried out under alkaline conditions similar to those anticipated in the near-field of a cement-based repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Experiments were conducted in NaOH solution, 95%-saturated Ca(OH)2, water equilibrated with a potential backfill material (Nirex reference vault backfill, NRVB) and in solutions containing cellulose degradation products, with and without reducing agents. The highest selenium concentrations were found in NaOH solution. In the calcium-containing solutions, analysis of the precipitates suggests that the solubility controlling phase is Ca2SeO3(OH)2·2H2O, which appears as euhedral rhombic crystals. The presence of cellulose degradation products caused an increase in selenium concentration, possibly due to competitive complexation, thereby, limiting the amount of calcium available for precipitation. Iron coupons had a minor effect on selenium solubility in contrast to Na2S2O4, suggesting that effective reduction of Se(IV) occurs only at Eh values below ?300 mV. Radial through-diffusion experiments on NRVB and in a fly ash cement showed no evidence of selenium breakthrough after one year. However, autoradiography of the exposed surfaces indicated that some migration had occurred and that selenium was more mobile in the higher porosity backfill than in the fly ash cement.
Van Es Elsje, Hinchliff J., Felipe-Sotelo Monica, Milodowski A.E., Field L.P., Evans N.D.M., Read David (2015) Retention of chlorine-36 by a cementitious backfill, Mineralogical Magazine 79 (06) pp. 1297-1305 The Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Radial diffusion experiments have been carried out to assess the migration of 36Cl, as chloride, through a cementitious backfill material. Further experiments in the presence of cellulose degradation products were performed to assess the effect of organic ligands on the extent and rate of chloride diffusion. Results show that breakthrough of 36Cl is dependent on chloride concentration: as the carrier concentration increases, both breakthrough time and the quantity retained by the cement matrix decreases. Experiments in the presence of cellulose degradation products also show a decrease in time to initial breakthrough. However, uptake at various carrier concentrations in the presence of organic ligands converges at 45% of the initial concentration as equilibrium is reached. The results are consistent with organic ligands blocking sites on the cement that would otherwise be available for chloride binding, though further work is required to confirm that this is the case. Post-experimental digital autoradiographs of the cement cylinders, and elemental mapping showed evidence of increased 36Cl activity associated with black ash-like particles in the matrix, believed to correspond to partially hydrated glassy calcium-silicate-sulfate-rich clinker.
Felipe-Sotelo M., Hinchliff J., Field L.P., Milodowski A.E., Holt J.D., Taylor S.E., Read D. (2016) The solubility of nickel and its migration through the cementitious backfill of a geological disposal facility for nuclear waste, Journal of Hazardous Materials 314 pp. 211-219 Elsevier
This work describes the solubility of nickel under the alkaline conditions anticipated in the near field of a cementitious repository for intermediate level nuclear waste. The measured solubility of Ni in 95%-saturated Ca(OH)2 solution is similar to values obtained in water equilibrated with a bespoke cementitious backfill material, on the order of 5 × 10?7 M. Solubility in 0.02 M NaOH is one order of magnitude lower. For all solutions, the solubility limiting phase is Ni(OH)2; powder X-ray diffraction and scanning transmission electron microscopy indicate that differences in crystallinity are the likely cause of the lower solubility observed in NaOH. The presence of cellulose degradation products causes an increase in the solubility of Ni by approximately one order of magnitude. The organic compounds significantly increase the rate of Ni transport under advective conditions and show measurable diffusive transport through intact monoliths of the cementitious backfill material.
Felipe-Sotelo Monica, Henshall-Bell E.R., Evans N.D.M., Read David (2015) Comparison of the chemical composition of British and Continental European bottled waters by multivariate analysis, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 39 pp. 33-42 Elsevier
The elemental composition of 37 bottled waters from the UK and continental Europe has been determined. Ca, K, Mg, Na, Al, As, Ba, Cd, Cr, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Sr, U, V and Zn were determined by ICP-OES and ICP-MS, in addition to inorganic and total organic carbon. The composition of all the waters analysed fell within the guideline values recommended by the World Health Organization. Na, Ca, Sr and Ba showed the widest variation in concentrations, ranging over two orders of magnitude. Levels of Fe were below the limit of detection (30 ¼g L?1) in all samples analysed. Waters produced in the UK generally showed lower levels of most major elements and trace metals, with the exception of Ba (up to 455 ¼g L?1). Italian waters showed the highest concentrations of Sr (3000?8000 ¼g L?1) and U (8?13 ¼g L?1), whereas waters produced in Slovakia and the Czech Republic showed the highest levels of Pb (0.7?4 ¼g L?1). The use of multivariate analysis reveals an association between high alkaline metal content and high concentrations of As and Cr. There also appears to be a correlation between high Ca and Sr content and high levels of U. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicates that the composition of bottled water can be distinguished primarily by the country of origin, over other factors including the geological environment of the source. This would suggest that composition reflects, and is biased towards, consumer preferences.