Scientists report a new use for the waste product of nuclear power generation

Spread the love

Scientists have discovered a new use for the waste product of nuclear power—changing an unused and stockpile into a flexible compound that could be used to make important commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources.

Drained uranium (DU) is a radioactive by-product of the procedure used to make nuclear energy. With many dreading the health dangers from DU, it is either stored in costly facilities or used to produce controversial armor-piercing missiles.

Be that as it may, in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Geoff Cloke, Professor Richard Layfield, and Dr. Nikolaos Tsoureas, all at the University of Sussex, have uncovered that DU could, truth be told, be more valuable than we may think.

By using a catalyst which contains exhausted uranium, the specialists have managed to change over ethylene (an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane (an alkane used to create various compounds including ethanol).

Their work is a breakthrough that could help lessen the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU and lead to the change of more complicated alkenes.

Prof Layfield stated: “The ability to convert alkenes into alkanes is an important chemical reaction that means we may be able to take simple molecules and upgrade them into valuable commodity chemicals, like hydrogenated oils and petrochemicals which can be used as an energy source.

“The fact that we can use depleted uranium to do this provides proof that we don’t need to be afraid of it as it might be very useful for us.”

Working as a team with scientists at Université de Toulouse and Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin, the Sussex group found that an organometallic molecule dependent on depleted uranium could catalyze the addition of a molecule of hydrogen to the carbon-carbon double bond in ethylene—the least difficult individual from alkene family—to make ethane.

Prof. Cloke stated: “Nobody has thought to use DU in this way before. While converting ethylene into ethane is nothing new, the use or uranium is a key milestone.

“The key to the reactivity were two fused pentagonal rings of carbon, known as pentalene, which help the uranium to inject electrons into ethylene and activate it towards the addition of hydrogen.”

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Herald Quest journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.