Retired Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher and UT-Battelle Corporate Fellow Richard Haire has received the 2013 Glenn T. Seaborg Award by the American Chemical Society. The Seaborg Award is one of the top recognitions in the field of nuclear chemistry.
Known for his forefront, fundamental studies of the actinide family of elements, Haire, while at ORNL, concentrated on the transplutonium elements produced in the U.S. Department of Energy research reactor, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, or HFIR. He developed novel experimental techniques and emphasized the use of systematic comparisons, which focused on the role of electron configurations in the chemistry and physics of these elements.
“We are extremely pleased that the American Chemical Society has recognized Richard Haire’s valuable contributions to our knowledge of actinide chemistry with this prestigious award,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said.
Haire is one of a very few who has done research on the solid-state forms of the elements einsteinium and fermium, which are at the far end of the periodic table and obtainable in appreciable quantities only from research reactors such as HFIR.
Haire, who appeared on the cover of the journal Physics Today in 1984, has collaborated with and performed research at multiple institutions around the world. He has remained active in research following his retirement from ORNL in 2007 and serves as a consultant.
“My work has opened a lot of doors for me; I’ve met and worked with people from all over the world.” Haire said. “Oak Ridge National Laboratory was central to this research as HFIR was the only source of these materials. When there’s only one place to ‘buy’ something, that’s where you go.”
Colleagues describe Haire as a pioneer in the studies of the heaviest of elements in the periodic table. He developed numerous novel techniques for studying these elements is the only person ever to make einsteinium and fermium metals (elements 99 and 100).
“Richard is a very unique and hands-on researcher,” said former colleague John Gibson, now a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Because the transplutonium actinides are difficult to both obtain and to work with, “it’s unlikely that some of his innovative and seminal research would ever have been accomplished,” Gibson said.
Examples of some collaborative studies performed by Haire and colleagues include determining the crystal structures of californium and einsteinium metals, measuring the enthalpies of vaporization of actinide metals from americium through fermium, and determining the high pressure, structural-electronic behaviors of the americium through californium metals.
Haire earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and his doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State University. He joined ORNL in 1966, led the laboratory’s transuranium chemistry group and served as a full adjunct professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee.
He is a member of several scientific organizations, the author of some 400 research articles and reference book chapters, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a recipient of the International Researcher Award in Japan, as well as other awards.
The Seaborg Award is named for Glenn T. Seaborg, the nuclear chemist who won a Nobel-prize for co-discovering plutonium as well as many other transuranium elements. Seaborg also chaired the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1961 to 1971. He was the only person to have a new element (seaborgium, element 106) named for him while still living.