EVANSTON, Ill., Jan. 27 (UPI) — Northwestern University scientists say they’ve created a material that can trap the radioactive ion cesium while ignoring harmless ions such as sodium.
Researchers led by Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis said their synthetic material is made from layers of a gallium, sulfur and antimony compound. They said it has been extremely successful in removing cesium — found in nuclear waste, but very difficult to clean up — from a sodium-heavy solution that consisted of concentrations similar to those found in real liquid nuclear waste.
The scientists said the new material sequestered 100 percent of the cesium ions from the solution, while simultaneously ignoring sodium ions.
“Ideally we want to concentrate the radioactive material so it can be dealt with properly and the non-radioactive water thrown away,” Kanatzidis said, adding the new material could lead to a much-needed breakthrough in nuclear waste remediation.
The study is reported online in the journal Nature Chemistry.
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