Chemists have observed a new use for the waste product of nuclear power—transforming an unused and stockpile into a flexible compound that could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals in addition to new power resources.
Depleted Uranium (DU) is a radioactive compound from the method used to develop nuclear energy. With many fearing the health threats from DU, it’s either saved in expensive services or used to manufacture controversial armor-piercing missiles.
However, in a paper printed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Prof. Geoff Cloke, Prof. Richard Layfield, and Dr. Nikolaos Tsoureas, all at the University of Sussex, have unveiled that DU might be more useful than thought.
By utilizing a catalyst which contains depleted uranium, the researchers have managed to convert ethylene (an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane – an alkane used to provide a number of different compounds, along with ethanol.
Their study is a breakthrough that can help alleviate the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU and result in the transformation of more sophisticated alkenes.
Working in collaboration with researchers at Université de Toulouse and Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin, Sussex group found that an organometallic molecule based on wasted uranium could catalyze the addition of a molecule of hydrogen to the carbon double bond in ethylene—the best member of alkene family—to create ethane.