Uranium toning: special precautions for Uranyl Nitrate and other questions

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Removed Account, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

    Messages:
    907
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nanaimo, Bri
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'm just starting my journey in to alternative processes but as with knowing I will one day want a ULF camera I know that one day I will want to try uranium toning, if not a full-on uranotype. The MSDS data I've been able to find has been rather sparse except for stating that it is highly toxic. Does anyone on this forum have experience working with uranium processes?

    How would uranyl nitrate rate in terms of safety precautions compared to the potassium dichromate or potassium cyanide used in other processes? I'd also assume that due to the nature of the material there are difficulties in obtaining the uranyl nitrate, has anyone tried to get this stuff, and if so what did you come up against? Will I find a painter's van parked down the street for several days and see the same guy reading a newspaper everywhere I go? :tongue: Any ideas on the "archivability" of a uranium toned print?

    I won't try this until I had a well equipped lab space with excellent ventilation but I can't resist the allure of showing someone a print and watching their reaction when I tell them it is made with uranium! :D Maybe the man with the newspaper will go away if I give him a print...

    - Justin
     
  2. walter23

    walter23 Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I would start by calling your local nuclear powerplants and asking if they have any surplus spent fuel rods that you could have. They're often at a loss for what to do with them, so I'm sure you could pick a few up pretty cheap. Just phone 'em up. You might have to purify the uranium, or you could try making urano-pluto-otherbyproducts-otypes.
     
  3. amuderick

    amuderick Member

    Messages:
    283
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2007
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Good luck getting your hands on any. If you can convince this company to sell to you, please let us know.

    http://www.2spi.com/catalog/chem/Uranyl_Nitrate.shtml

    Possession is legal in the USA but the thumbscrews on the companies that sell it are pretty tight.

    As for toxicity, yes, it is nasty. The danger is chemical toxicity, not radioactive. If you can keep your lab area clean, use gloves, work in non-living-spaces, and use a dust respirator you should be fine. A geiger counter sensitive to alpha particles can be helpful in establishing a baseline for your work environment and also identifying contamination during your processing.

    If you can't find anyone to sell it to you, you can always make it yourself. The rules in the USA have changed recently making the production of small quantities legal again. I advise you to call the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) directly before actually undergoing any materials processing. The rules and the way they are interpreted is subject to change at any time. The fines for non-compliance are steep.

    The basic formula for making Uranyl Nitrate from raw ore (which can be purchased from many sources) is here: http://www.unitednuclear.com/extract.htm

    I don't know what purities you'd need to obtain for photo processing. I imagine that most of the impurities will not effect the photograph. Alternatively, you can find some depleted uranium metal and make the necessary compounds (nitrates, chlorides, etc) from that.
     
  4. David William White

    David William White Member

    Messages:
    1,179
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Location:
    Hamilton, Ca
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jeez, pushing Tri-X to 3200 is my macho thrill. Now I feel small.
     
  5. magic823

    magic823 Member

    Messages:
    460
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2003
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What a cool website. Makes me want to build a lab and play!
     
  6. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    You might dabble with some ricin toning also. Let us know how it goes.
     
  7. 23mjm

    23mjm Member

    Messages:
    450
    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2005
    Location:
    Rocklin, Cal
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
  8. walter23

    walter23 Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
  9. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

    Messages:
    907
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nanaimo, Bri
    Shooter:
    35mm
    It was Blake Ferris' website and the unblinkingeye article that got me interested in this.

    *Jerold, I'm more of a VX or sarin man myself! :tongue:*

    note to man with newspaper: between the asterisks is a joke.
     
  10. Dwane

    Dwane Member

    Messages:
    50
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Uranium nitrate

    About 30 years ago I purchased a little over 100 grams of Uranium Nitrate to use as a toner. (It was easier to get such things in those days). It arrived in a wooden crate that measured 3 feet on a side. The crate was filled with a straw-like material. In the middle of all this straw-like stuff was a metal paint can, with no label. Inside the paint can there was more packing material, and in the middle of the packing material was an itty bitty bottle of the Uranium Nitrate.

    I used it only once, to tone some prints. They came out OK, a nice reddish color, but after living with the prints for a while, I realized it was more of a novelty than anything else, and I've never used it again.

    Dwane
     
  11. Jeff Bannow

    Jeff Bannow Member

    Messages:
    1,759
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Location:
    Royal Oak, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I've been looking at that as well. Certainly doesn't look cheap though. Let us know if you succeed in purchasing the uranium.
     
  12. tim_walls

    tim_walls Member

    Messages:
    1,044
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2006
    Location:
    Bucuresti, R
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Fascinating stuff! TAAB in the UK sell it; it appears to be intended for staining electron microscopy tissue samples - so clearly there's at least one non-bonkers civilian use. In which case maybe a local university department (biology or biochem I guess) might be able to help you aquire some (or maybe not in this day and age, but they may at least be able to put you in touch with a supplier.)
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,077
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,374
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Location:
    Humboldt Co.
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Bostick and Sullivan had some of the stuff...don't know if they still do. But at the time it was pick-up only because it was impossible for them to ship it.

    vaughn
     
  16. Kino

    Kino Member

    Messages:
    1,730
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Uranium Nitrate was used extensively in tinting and toning of silent motion pictures. I remember seeing a picture of a man standing next to a 1 gallon jug of the stuff, as he pulled a rack out of the toner bath. He wasn't wearing gloves or an apron. He looked ghastly.

    When historians went back in the 1940's to try to interview lab techs from major motion picture labs of the silent era, they could not locate anyone who tinted and toned prints for distribution; they had all died of cancer or other mysterious diseases.

    Now, they were less than careful with the chemicals, and who's to say if the Uranium Nitrate, or the Mercury or the Cyanide got to them first, but it is a sobering thing to contemplate.

    Anything else that will do the same job and is less toxic?
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,004
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I've seen very few uranium prints that I thought were interesting enough to justify dealing with uranium. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way, because I recall a kind of tongue-in-cheek list of something like "50 Rules" for photography by Brooks Jensen that included the rule, "no interesting photographic prints can be made from uranium salts." Other than the frisson of handling uranium, what's the attraction?
     
  18. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

    Messages:
    1,063
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Location:
    Westport, MA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Reminds me of those stories about watchmakers, and those who painted the radium on watch hands to make them glow..
     
  19. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,806
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Gee just when I got to thinking about plutomian toned prints.
     
  20. Marco B

    Marco B Member

    Messages:
    2,981
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2005
    Location:
    The Netherla
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think it would be healthier to go for a "Pluto-mania" print... :D
     
  21. Marco B

    Marco B Member

    Messages:
    2,981
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2005
    Location:
    The Netherla
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is interesting, and probably a big warning to inexperienced archivists working with motion film.

    I remember seeing a digital projection of an old silent movie that had a very peculiar orange / red tint in a museum exhibition recently, a color I had never seen before...

    I first thought it was a sepia toned film, but I am now beginning to wonder? :confused: I sure hope it was sepia toned, or otherwise the poor sot who needed to put it on digital media may have had some unwanted "exposure" :surprised:
     
  22. Peter Black

    Peter Black Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,001
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You might want to check out the link below, but it's certainly gonna last .......:tongue:

    http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/uranium.html
     
  23. kevs

    kevs Member

    Messages:
    544
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Justin,

    I have an article on uranium toning in the Amateur Photographer Dictionary of Photography (1961). It has several recipes and also some notes on mixed copper and uranium toning. it does however say:

    "The reputation for giving impermanent prints seems to have arisen because the final image is soluble in any alkaline solution, including ordinary tap-water. "

    ( Sowerby, A.L.M. (ed.) Dictionary of Photography: A Reference Book For Amateur and Professional Photographers (1961) London: Iliffe Books Ltd.)

    It also gives a working method for Uranium printmaking, but doesn't note their permanence. It says they can be made by sensitising paper with 16% unranyl nitrate, and the addition of a 4% solution of eiher mercuric nitrate of copper sulphate has been recommended. Develop in either a 10% solution of pot ferri for reddish-brown tones, or a 5% solution of silver nitrate for a greyish image which can be toned.. You can also develop in a 1:500 solution of gold chloride brushed over the paper to give prurplish-black tones. After development, was in hydrochloric acid 1:80 and wash again thoroughly.

    That's the gist of it. If you're still interested, i can scan the articles and bang them up on my webspace for you.
     
  24. walter23

    walter23 Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Nah, those are just halflives for the radioactive nuclei. Doesn't mean anything with respect to other (non-nuclear) chemical transformations. I'd imagine it'd be similar to a Pt/Pd print.

     
  25. walter23

    walter23 Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I agree that you'd need a compelling reason to want to print with uranium. But I'm not so quick to dismiss the novelty aspect. It would be kind of cool to have a couple of prints made this way. I'd probably hide them behind lead glass though :wink:
     
  26. tim_walls

    tim_walls Member

    Messages:
    1,044
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2006
    Location:
    Bucuresti, R
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'd strongly suspect that if you're concerned about the radioactivity of Uranium prints (or film,) you'd be well advised not to move to Cornwall!