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Advances made by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory could enhance the ability of scientists to develop advanced nuclear fuels in a safer, simpler manner.
Uranium chemistry research relies heavily on a variety of uranium “starting materials”—solids and solutions—that are precursors to uranium compounds of oxygen, nitrogen, halogen, carbon, fluorine, and other elements, all of which are candidates for advanced nuclear fuels.
Uranium also has been identified as a promising material in developing superconductors, and for use as catalysts—to speed up other chemical reactions.
But uranium starting materials have traditionally been relatively difficult or hazardous to produce. Now researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a method to produce uranium starting materials in a much more benign fashion. The method, recently published in the scientific journal Organometallics, relies on a room-temperature process that reacts uranium metal in a solution of 1,4-dioxane – a liquid organic solvent – and iodine.
Conventional methods of producing uranium starting materials can require toxic chlorine-containing compounds and high temperatures or mercury iodide and low temperatures. Some of these syntheses are dangerous and generate a fair amount of waste.
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