Ocean

How to extract uranium from ocean water?

It is estimated that the natural uranium deposits will be used up in about 100 years at least on land. Assuming that somewhere on the Earth still nuclear energy producing power something interesting come up from Tennessee researchers. Fishing the minerals from the water of the seas and make special strings.

According to the researchers of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) we have about four billion tons of uranium in Earth’s oceans. If it were possible to get this coveted raw materials, nuclear energy could generated sufficient worldwide for the next 10,000 years. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a scientific laboratory in Tennessee and part of the U.S. Department of energy.

For half a century researchers sought around the world somehow bind the uranium in sea water and focus almost without success. Only in the 1990s succeeded scientists of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, to tiny amounts of uranium plates shall be liable, who swam in the sea.

The researchers from Tennessee have now improved this absorbed materials-based approach and changed. Together with colleagues from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the U.S. State of Washington have developed and tested cords, which are covered with a complex internal absorber material. The ropes of polyethylene fibers contain Amidoxim: connections on nitrogen and carbon based material. These organic molecules strongly attract uranium in the water.

First success after 49 days of research.

The theory of researchers: The cords with the chemical attractant must be simply just long enough in the water suspended and liable to isolate uranium. And indeed seems to be the concept: a days-long test in the ocean nearly six grams collected on the cords uranium (per kilogram absorbed material). By acid treatment, then uranyl ions released and processed.

Later, the researchers emphasize, quasi harvested ropes can be again suspended in the ocean. “We could also show that our absorbing material for most organisms in the sea is not harmful”, PNNL researcher Gary Gill says. His colleague Sheng Dai of the ORNL from Tennessee, however, stressed the importance of an interdisciplinary team. “To produce a material that absorbed uranium from sea water, you need a team of chemists, IT scientists, oceanographers, but also economists.”