by Staff Writers
Corvallis OR (SPX) Jan 27, 2017
The separation of uranium, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, could potentially be done more safely and efficiently through a new technique developed by chemistry researchers at Oregon State University.
The technique uses soap-like chemicals known as surfactants to extract uranium from an aqueous solution into a kerosene solution in the form of hollow clusters. Aside from fuel preparation, it may also find value in legacy waste treatment and for the cleanup of environmental contamination.
The research at OSU involves a unique form of uranium discovered in 2005, uranyl peroxide capsules, and how those negatively charged clusters form in alkaline conditions. Results were recently published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry.
"This is a very different direction," said study lead author Harrison Neal, a graduate student in Oregon State's College of Science. "A lot of the work done now is in acid, and we're at the other end of the pH scale in base. It's a very different approach, overall using less harmful, less toxic chemicals."
Throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, many separations are required - in mining, enrichment and fuel fabrication, and then after fuel use, for the recovery of usable spent isotopes and the encapsulation and storage of unusable radioactive components.
"When you use nuclear fuel, the radioactive decay products poison the fuel and make it less effective," said May Nyman, professor of chemistry at Oregon State and corresponding author on the research. "You have to take it, dissolve it, get the good stuff out and make new fuel."
Nyman notes the work represents significant fundamental research in the field of cluster chemistry because it allows for the study of uranyl clusters in the organic phase and can pave the way to improved understanding of ion association.
"With extracting these clusters into the organic phase, the clusters themselves are hollow, so when we get them into the organic solution, they're still containing other atoms, molecules, other ions," Neal added. "We can study how these ions interact with these cages that they're in. The fundamental research is understanding how the ions get inside and what they do once they're inside because they're stuck there."
When the clusters form, each contains 20 to 60 uranium atoms, "so we can extract them in whole bunches instead of one at a time," Nyman said. "It's an atom-efficient approach."
Existing separation techniques require two extraction molecules for every uranium ion, whereas the OSU technique requires less than one extraction molecule per ion.
Oregon State University
Nuclear Power News - Nuclear Science, Nuclear Technology
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|