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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-10-05 09:05:36
  • Article ID: 682335

New 'Molecular Trap' Cleans More Radioactive Waste From Nuclear Fuel Rods

  • Credit: WFU / Ken Bennett

    Wake Forest physics professor Timo Thonhasuer talks with postdoctoral fellow Stephanie Jensen about their research on the capture of radioactive waste materials in nuclear power plants.

A new method for capturing radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is cheaper and more effective than current methods, a potential boon for the energy industry, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.

 

“Our capture method by far outperforms all current technologies and may change the landscape of energy production worldwide,” said Timo Thonhauser, the Wake Forest University computational physicist on the research team.

 

The new molecular trap, a metal-organic framework (MOF) called MIL-101-Cr, was developed by scientists led by Jing Li at Rutgers University, analyzed by Thonhauser’s lab at Wake Forest and measured by scientists in Yves Chabal’s lab at the University of Texas-Dallas. 

 

This unique MOF removes nearly all radioactive iodide from used nuclear fuel rods. Regulations in the U.S. require reprocessing plants to scrub 99.967 percent of radioactive iodides from the rods. The MIL-101-Cr MOF removes 99.979–99.984 percent.

 

MOFs are a relatively new class of materials in which metal corners are connected by an organic linker.

 

“That becomes an entire framework with empty space in the middle,” Thonhauser explained. “It looks kind of like a sponge.”

 

The breakthrough came when the researchers at Rutgers attached “grabbers” to the metal corners of their MOF, creating MIL-101-Cr, an industrial adsorbent that is very good at capturing one particular byproduct of nuclear energy production – radioactive iodide. This substance has been linked to cancer in humans.

 

As the research team’s computational physicist, Thonhauser, with post-doctoral assistant Stephanie Jensen, ran theoretical tests of the MOF using a supercomputer. Their aim was to determine why and how the trap works so it can be improved in further testing. 

 

In fact, this MOF is three to four times better than the current industrial adsorbent used by nuclear power plants. It’s also cheaper, because it doesn’t rely on a precious metal such as silver to form its corners.

 

That fact alone could save on fuel costs around the globe. A 2015 report by the World Nuclear Association ranked the cost of nuclear power in the U.S. lower than coal but higher than natural gas. 

 

The research behind “Capture of organic iodides from nuclear waste by metal-organic framework-based molecular traps” is funded by a joint grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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ORNL Wins Four FLC Technology Transfer Awards

Four technologies developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have earned 2018 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, OHSU Create Joint Research Co-Laboratory to Advance Precision Medicine

News Release PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OHSU today announced a joint collaboration to improve patient care by focusing research on highly complex sets of biomedical data, and the tools to interpret them.The OHSU-PNNL Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, called PMedIC, will provide a comprehensive ecosystem for scientists to utilize integrated 'omics, data science and imaging technologies in their research in order to advance precision medicine -- an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person.

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MSU Uses $3 Million NASA Grant to Find Better Ways to Regulate Dams

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Harker School Wins Second Consecutive SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl

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David Asner Named Deputy Associate Laboratory Director and Head of the Instrumentation Division in Brookhaven Lab's Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate

A particle physicist with extensive leadership and management experience, Asner will help expand a portfolio of physics programs and oversee instrumentation research and development.

UIC to Provide Energy-Saving 'Kits' with $3.1m in Funding From ComEd

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center has received funding from ComEd to provide energy-efficient LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, and educational material to income-qualified participants in northern Illinois.As part of a $3.1 million year-long investment, the utility company will fund the Low Income Kit Energy (LIKE) program, allowing engineers at UIC's Energy Resources Center to provide energy-saving kits to 35,000 eligible individuals and/or families.

DOE's HPC4Manufacturing Program Seeks Industry Proposals

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Feb. 1 announced up to $3 million will be made available to U.S. manufacturers for public/private projects aimed at applying high performance computing to industry challenges for the advancement of energy innovation.

Elke-Caroline Aschenauer Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

UPTON, NY -- Elke-Caroline Aschenauer, a senior physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for her contributions to the field of experimental nuclear physics. This prestigious international award--issued by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany--comes with a prize of EUR60,000 (more than $70,000 U.


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Squeezing Into the Best Shape

Gel uses nanoparticles for on-demand control of droplet shapes, of interest for energy storage and catalysis.

Forcing the Hand of Elusive Electrons

Current generated when light hits a material reveals electrons behaving like an elusive particle.

Single Atoms in Nano-Cages

Tiny cages can trap and release inert argon gas atoms, allowing their further study and providing a new way to capture rare gases.

Unwavering Juggler with Three Extra Electrons

Simulations discovered the first molecule with three extra electrons and extraordinary stability.

Deep Dive Into How Electrons Behave

Unprecedented characterization of subsurface electronic states could lead to better semiconductors and seeing new interactions.

How Bacteria Produce Manganese Oxide Nanoparticles

Multiple techniques to characterize an enzyme complex shed light on how bacteria create particles and contribute to global cycles.

Meet the Director: Sergei Nagaitsev

This is one in a series of profiles on directors of the SC-stewarded user facilities. This profile features Sergei Nagaitsev, director of the Fermilab Accelerator Complex.

From 100,000 to 8: Representing Complex Aerosol Patterns with Far Fewer Particles

Study shows how aerosols interacting with clouds can be accurately captured by sparse set of representative particles.

Atomic Vibes During Melting?

Where does the heat go when a glass melts into a liquid? Not to changing the vibrations of atoms....

Taking Solar Energy to the Edge

Engineered stacked perovskite layers harvest light or create light via layer edges.


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