The team of chemists suddenly discovered new and very unusual properties of uranium that will not only help to save the Earth from a huge amount of hazardous waste, but also will allow a serious breakthrough in industry and science.
Researchers working at the University of Manchester in the United States found that with the help of uranium it is possible to make reactions that can be a solution to today’s problems in the field of energy and waste disposal, and, strangely enough, to help develop new-generation drugs. The team, led by Professor Steve Liddle, head of Inorganic Chemistry in Manchester, described in detail his breakthrough discovery in the journal Nature Communications.
Interesting properties of uranium
The discovery itself became accidental and appeared in the framework of a research program that has been going on for more than 10 years. Previously, scientists believed that only transition metals are capable of such reactions. “The uniqueness of uranium lies in the fact that in the periodic table it is located at a peculiar” crossroads “and sometimes behaves like lanthanides (14th row) and sometimes as transition metals,” explains Liddle.
From the point of view of industrial chemistry, this is a great success: surprisingly, mankind has more uranium than many transition metals – their content in the rock is low, and the extraction technology is not easy. Lidl notes that literally hundreds of tons of depleted uranium currently lay idle in warehouses around the world – this metal is a by-product in the production of enriched uranium. The scientist believes that good should not be lost without a cause and that from it it is possible to take a fair advantage.
Uranium in industry
For decades, mankind has been using uranium in nuclear power and as a filling for nuclear weapons. The abundance of depleted uranium has evolved over time, as measures to recycle waste and isolate hazardous radioactive materials are not always sufficiently effective. Lidla’s team says that soon this problem will come to an end, as the discovery of researchers should level the amount of nuclear waste to an acceptable minimum.
“We are confident that understanding the principles of the correct use of radioactive metals will enable us to come up with other effective ways to dispose of nuclear waste, so that in the end they will cease to pose a threat,” explains Steve in an interview with Futurism.
In an official press release from the University of Manchester, Liddle explained that their discovery could lead to the development of new drugs and plastics that would be biodegradable – this would also help rid the Earth of debris. At present, it is plastic that is one of the most serious elements of environmental pollution, as it decomposes very slowly in natural conditions. The total amount of plastics used in the world industry, experts estimate at 297.5 million tons.
Uranium and the materials of the future
Scientists note that, among other things, uranium also has interesting magnetic properties and can become a potential component for “materials of the future.” In the event that uranium can indeed be used as a source of “peaceful” and safe energy, this will make industrial production cycles less wasteful and energy-intensive.