This New Material Can Suck Up 20 Times More Uranium From Seawater Than Older Techniques

According to the Nuclear Energy Agency, there are around four billion tons of uranium in the oceans, which corresponds to about 500 times the amount of uranium known to exist in land-based ores. However, extracting uranium from the sea is an ordeal and that’s why it is avoided.

Linsen Yang, along with his peers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, has created a polymer membrane that acts like how blood vessels work. They further added a compound called amidoxime to it which binds to uranium ions. This allowed the membrane to have 20 times more absorption ability from seawater as compared to previous techniques.

A report shows that fast progress is being made towards turning the oceans into a uranium reservoir

To check that the uranium was entirely extracted, they used X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. It was further stated that the uranium-laced material could also be cleaned with hydrochloric acid, which removes 98 percent of the uranium. Furthermore, it was also revealed that this solution enabled their material to be used for a longer period. This helped in massively deducting the cost of uranium mining as it won’t have to be done more often.

Scientists state that they stumbled upon this idea by getting inspired by the geometry of blood vessels. “Here, inspired by the ubiquitous fractal structure in biology that is favorable for mass and fluid transfer, we describe a hierarchical porous membrane based on polymers of intrinsic microporosity that can capture uranium in seawater,” wrote the researchers in their study.

Scientists find new way to extract uranium from seawater

“This biomimetic membrane allows for rapid diffusion of uranium species, leading to a 20-fold higher uranium adsorption capacity in a uranium-spiked water solution (32 ppm) than the membrane with only intrinsic microporosity.”

People might be of the idea that the uranium will not be replenished at a reasonable rate. However, it should be noted that the reservoir of the substance is so vast in seawater that it does not really matter whether the uranium is replenished or not.

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