An ultra-high-resolution technique used for the first time to study polymer fibers that trap uranium in seawater may cause researchers to rethink the best methods to harvest this potential fuel for nuclear reactors.
The work of a team led by Carter Abney, a Wigner Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, shows that the polymeric adsorbent materials that bind uranium behave nothing like scientists had believed. The results, gained through collaboration with the University of Chicago and detailed in a paper published in Energy and Environmental Science, highlight data made possible with X-ray Absorption Fine Structure spectroscopy performed at the Advanced Photon Source. The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Argonne National Laboratory.
“Despite the low concentration of uranium and the presence of many other metals extracted from seawater, we were able to investigate the local atomic environment around uranium and better understand how it is bound by the polymer fibers,” Abney said. [Read more…]