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Peter Burns

Peter C. Burns


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.


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.

National Security and Nuclear Materials: Using Forensic Science in a Nuclear Age

September 22, 2014

When asked about the role of forensics in society, people might point to TV shows like the CSI series and its offshoots as examples of the type of information that forensics can uncover. At its core forensics takes the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” literally and focuses on understanding materials, processes, and reactions. While the actors in the series usually find their answers within an hour, researchers like Antonio Simonetti, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, and his team are working at a different pace to carefully build foundational research for the nation’s most immediate needs, as well as for its future.

Burns Named Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy

July 10, 2014

Peter C. Burns, the Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, and concurrent professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been named director of the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy).

Notre Dame Energy Frontier Research Center Receives Further DOE Funding

July 7, 2014

A University of Notre Dame research center has once again been designated an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and will receive funding to help accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy.

New Paper Examines Issues Raised by Fukushima Reactor Accident

March 8, 2012

As the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor accident is marked on March 11, a new paper by Peter C. Burns, the Henry Massman Professor of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and colleagues from the University of Michigan and the University of California-Davis, stresses that we need much more knowledge about how nuclear fuel interacts with the environment during and after an accident.