Chemists have found a new use for the waste product of nuclear power – transforming an unused stockpile into a versatile compound which could be used to create valuable commodity chemicals as well as new energy sources. Depleted uranium (DU) is a radioactive by-product from the process used to create nuclear energy. Many fear the health risks from DU, as it is either stored in expensive facilities or used to manufacture controversial armour-piercing missiles. But, in a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Professor Geoff Cloke, Professor Richard Layfield and Dr Nikolaos Tsoureas, all at the University of Sussex, have revealed that DU could, in fact, be more useful than we might think. By using a catalyst which contains depleted uranium, the researchers have managed to convert ethylene (an alkene used to make plastic) into ethane (an alkane used to produce a number of other compounds including ethanol). Their work is a breakthrough that could help reduce the heavy burden of large-scale storage of DU, and lead to the transformation of more complicated alkenes.
Newswise 10th Jan 2020 read more »