Study shows graphene can be used to clean nuclear waste

Study shows graphene can be used to clean nuclear waste

A new study has shown that graphene material can be used to clean up nuclear waste as it is capable of filtering different isotopes of hydrogen.

The study led by Andre Geim from University of Manchester in UK showed that the membranes made from graphene were able to separate protons, which are nuclei of hydrogen. The material was able to separate protonsfrom heavier nuclei of hydrogen isotope deuterium. Experts said that this can be used to clean up nuclear waste.

The researchers said that the process could make producing heavy water for nuclear power plants much less energy intensive and simpler and cheaper. They said that deuterium is commonly used in analytical and chemical tracing technologies and heavy water is required in thousands of tonnes for operation of nuclear power stations. The heaviest isotope, tritium is radioactive and should be removed from electricity generation at nuclear fission plants.

The nuclear technology in the future will be based on fusion of the two heavy isotopes. Experts said that the current technologies to separate heavy water are extremely energy intensive and have presented several industrial problems.

First author Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Manchester, said, “This is really the first membrane shown to distinguish between subatomic particles, all at room temperature. Now that we showed that it is a fully scalable technology, we hope it will quickly find its way to real applications.”

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