A new industrial use for depleted uranium
In depth

A new industrial use for depleted uranium

Thanks to research, it is now possible to recycle depleted uranium (DU) instead of storing it.

Depleted uranium is a product derived from the manufacture of nuclear fuel. A new technique could be applied to produce chemical and fuel substances for commercial use.

A new technique is underway to recycle depleted uranium and use it for industrial applications instead of storing it

An international research team has developed an organometallic catalyst that incorporates DU and turns ethylene into ethane. This way the uranium can be used to manufacture petrochemical products with industrial value.

The conversion process catalyzes the addition of a hydrogen molecule to the two carbon atoms in the ethylene. This discovery that was made by researchers from the University of Sussex (United Kingdom), Université de Toulouse (France) and Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, could represent a new purpose for DU, which would reduce the amount that needs to be stored in radioactive nuclear waste repositories.

A new industrial use for depleted uranium
Schematic of the DU-catalyzed conversion process (Source: N. Tsoureas et al)

According to Professor Geogg Cloke from the University of Sussex, “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 addition of hydrogen.”

Nobody has thought to use DU in this way before. While converting ethylene into ethane is nothing new, the use of uranium is a key milestone.” ha añadido Cloke.

Source: Engineering360