Division of Nuclear and Radiochemistry – New Chair

Oct 26, 2016

EuChemS would like to welcome Jon Petter Omtvedt as the new Chair of the EuChemS Division of Nuclear and Radiochemistry.

Jon Petter Omtvedt obtained his PhD in Nuclear Chemistry at the University of Oslo in May 1995. The thesis title was “Studies of short-lived nuclei close to shells and sub-shells”. It contained work mainly carried out at the OSIRIS on-line isotope separator system connected to the 1 MW R2-0 research reactor in Studsvik, located outside Stockholm in Sweden (since many years now shut down).

After having obtained his PhD, Omtvedt was employed as an associate professor with the Nuclear Chemistry Group at the Department for Chemistry from August 1995. Omtvedt then switched his research interest towards physical and chemical studies of Super-heavy Elements (SHEs), which today still remains his major research focus. Together with Prof. Jorolf Alstad (deceased in 2015) a major SHE effort was built up. The starting point was Prof. Alstad’s continuous liquid-liquid extraction system SISAK, developed as a joint effort between the nuclear chemistry groups at the Chalmers University of Technology, University Mainz and Oslo as a chemical separation system for nuclear spectroscopy of short lived nuclei. By combining the SISAK extraction system with an on-line Liquid Scintillation (LS) detection system developed in Mainz, a complete system for liquid phase studies of SHEs was built up. Fundamental for this was establishing an experimental facility using on-line radionuclei delivered by a dedicated target and gas-jet transfer system at the Oslo Cyclotron Laboratory for SHE model studies and development work. The Oslo SHE-group performed a long series of transactinide experiments at facilities like the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California, USA and the GSI Helmholtz Accelerator Facility in Darmstadt, Germany between 1995 and up to about 2008. From July 2000 to August 2001 Omtvedt worked as a visiting scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This enabled the Oslo group and colleagues from Berkeley to perform the first ever chemistry experiment on a transactinide element (rutherfordium) preseparated with a physical gas-filled separator (the “BGS”). Today, this is the normal way of performing SHE chemistry experiments.

In May 2002, Omtvedt was employed as a full professor at UiO. After 2004 much of his attention was taken up with building up a Centre for Accelerator Baser Research and Energy Physics (Norwegian acronym SAFE) at UiO: Omtvedt headed the work in the period 2005-2009, including major reconstruction and refurbishing. Omtvedt also initiated and lead a major upgrade program at the Oslo Cyclotron Laboratory to extend the lifetime of this unique and expensive facility by replacing old electronics and implementing a modern control system. The cyclotron is still in operation, but the SAFE center was terminated in 2015 due to internal restructuring.

Omtvedt was Head of the Nuclear Chemistry Section from 2005 to 2015. From 2016 the Section was merged into a new and larger section for Environmental Science. This fits well with another major research initiative started by Omtvedt and Dag Ø. Eriksen in 2013 to rebuild and extend Norwegian hydrometallurgy competence. Currently they have established and obtained funding for the joint industry-academia initiative Hydromet (2014-2018) funded by the Norwegian Research Council and Norwegian industry. Their partners in this undertaking are the University of Trondheim (NTNU), the research institutes IFE and SINTEF, and industry partners Boliden Odda, Glencore Nikkelverk and Yara Porsgrunn. The UiO Nuclear Chemistry Group (still headed by Omtvedt) are using their competence in separation methods, in particular liquid-liquid extraction, and radiochemistry analytical methods to better understand the very complex conditions by which metals are extracted from highly concentrated solutions.

Omtvedt has always taken a keen interest in teaching, in particular how modern technology can be used to enhance the student’s learning outcome. He participate in the EU FP7 research project (2010-2013): “Cooperation in Education in Nuclear Chemistry – CINCH” to coordinate the education in nuclear chemistry in Europe and Russia. The project was headed by Prof. Jan John from CTU, Prague. This project was continued in the CINCH-II project (2013-2016), where he was invited to act as Work-Pack leader for one of four thematic WPs. Among other things, he headed the construction of six remote controlled laboratories, called “RoboLabs” based on a system he had developed in Oslo between 2004 and 2007. He also initiated establishing the NucWik Wiki for sharing Nuclear and Radiochemistry teaching material.