Stockpiles of waste generated while producing nuclear energy could be useful, according to research carried out at the University of Sussex. The waste could find use to transform into a versatile compound. This compound could find further use to create useful commodity chemicals and new sources of energy.
For example, depleted uranium a radioactive byproduct released during generation of nuclear energy. In general, depleted uranium associated with health risks. Storage in expensive facilities or its use for the manufacture of disputed armor-piercing missiles are some reasons for this.
However, a recent research publication reveals depleted uranium to find more use. To find use of depleted uranium, researchers employed a catalyst containing depleted uranium to convert ethylene. This ethylene – an alkene to make plastic is converted into an alkane further used to produce several other compounds including ethanol.
Finding Breakthrough for fitting Use of Depleted Uranium
The finding is a breakthrough for two reasons – to help reduce the burden of large-scale storage of depleted uranium, and to help with transformation of more complicated alkenes.
According to lead researcher of the study, the ability to transform alkenes into alkanes is a significant chemical reaction. This implies simple molecules to find use to convert them into valuable commodity chemicals. These commodity chemicals include hydrogenated oils and petrochemicals to find use as an energy source.
With this finding, the perceived ability of depleted uranium results in changed view of its associated risks.
The research team at Sussex in collaboration with researchers at Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin and University de Toulouse discovered something more. They discovered an organometallic molecule with a base of depleted uranium could trigger a chemical reaction. The one that of addition of a hydrogen molecule to the carbon-carbon double bond in ethylene.
Following this finding, researchers opine the use of uranium to convert ethylene into ethane is a key milestone.