Imperial College London

Matthew Kirby

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Research Postgraduate



m.kirby15 Website CV




Desk 56.ERoyal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





My PhD aims to look at the physical and chemical processes affecting uranium transport from a geological repository to receptors at the surface, and the effects of organic ligands on these processes.

I collaborate with various universities and institutions including Stanford University, University of Liverpool and the Natural History Museum

PhD Aims

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The aims of this research project are to:

  • Understand how pH and ionic strength effect uranium mobility through the subsurface
  • Understand how uranium complexes with organic ligands in high pH conditions.
  • Understand what control these organic ligands play in uranium mobility in the subsurface

Methods Employed

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Many methods will be required to achieve the aims of the PhD. These are described briefly below.


Inorganic Chemical Controls

In order to analyse how the mobility of uranium is controlled by pH and ionic strength, the breakthrough of uranium through quartz sand columns has been determined. The chemistry of uranium in the source term has been analysed by undertaking batch experiments. The results from these two experiment types have been used to understand the underlying physical and chemical processes controlling uranium mobility in the subsurface.

Organic Chemical Controls

We will then move on to look at how organic ligands affect uranium mobility. A variety of phytosiderophores will be selected based on availability in the natural environment. A series of theorectical and experimental methods will be employed to understand uranium complexation with organic ligands, and how these effect uranium mobility.


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My PhD is part of a NERC project, Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE), which comprises of three consortiums, TREE, Lo-Rise and Hydroframe. Mine is part of the Hydroframe consortium, which aims to look at the hydromechanical and biogeochemical processes affecting transport of radioactive materials in a fractured host rock around a repository. More details can be found at the NERC RATE website found here:


There is a lot of collaboration between the three consortium, with a summer school organised each year, such as the trip to Chernobyl in September 2015, and trip to Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland in August 2016

                    Reactor unit 4 in concrete contaminment                                                   


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I demonstrate in various geochemistry courses including

 Low temperature geochemistry lecture course

Environmental geochemistry laboratory course.

I supervise summer interns, these have included:

Yirong Peng from University of British Columbia, who set up our carbon dioxide measurment techniques

Jordan Weddepohl from Imperial College London, who helped characterise the aqueous speciation of U(VI) in alkaline and saline soutions