Uranium to replace plastic? Chemistry breakthrough could pave the way for new materials

December 1, 2017, University of Manchester

Uranium can perform reactions that previously no one thought possible, which could transform the way industry makes bulk chemicals, polymers, and the precursors to new drugs and plastics, according to new findings from The University of Manchester.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the chemists have discovered that can perform reactions that used to be the preserve of such as rhodium and palladium. And because uranium sits between different types of reactivity of lanthanides and transition metals it might be able to combine the best of both to give new ways of producing materials and chemicals.

This discovery is also profiled in a new video (see below) which is part of a series produced by the School of Chemistry. Other videos show how chemists at Manchester have developed the world's smallest fuel powered motor and identified that Parkinson's sufferers can have a unique smell identifying the disease - before any medical professional can see symptoms.

The YouTube series attempts to put world class scientific papers into words that anyone can understand.

The latest discovery means that industry might now be in a position to develop new compounds that can't be made in any other way.

What's more, uranium is one of the elements we know the least about and while it is associated with nuclear weapons and nuclear power, the new discovery suggests other uses may be on the horizon.

Steve Liddle, Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry, and author of the paper, said: "This discovery will lead to some monumental developments that could change the way we live. Development work like this really could pave the way for and also the creation of truly biodegradable hard plastic.

"It is comparable to the discovery of , which happened 20 years before everyone sat up and realised that they could be used in modern computer displays and TVs."

Explore further: Improving the selective extraction of spent uranium in nuclear waste clean-up

More information: Benedict M. Gardner et al, Evidence for single metal two electron oxidative addition and reductive elimination at uranium, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01363-0

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Transforming carbon dioxide

August 21, 2018

A team of researchers at the University of Delaware's Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST) has discovered a novel two-step process to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide (CO2) electrolysis, a chemical ...

Gut bacteria provide key to making universal blood

August 21, 2018

In January, raging storms caused medical emergencies along the U.S. East Coast, prompting the Red Cross to issue an urgent call for blood donations. The nation's blood supply was especially in need of O-type blood that can ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rrwillsj
1 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2017
Oh JesusBuddhaKrishna, save us from ourselves.

Can I opt out? Cause all the other experiments performed on us taxpaying monkeys have already been a crashing bore!
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2017
They knew decades ago that irradiation (by gamma rays) of plastics dramatically increased their melting points. Using this would have saved countless lives of people who died in fires from smoke inhalation of burning plastics. But they didn't.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Dec 03, 2017
They knew decades ago that irradiation (by gamma rays) of plastics dramatically increased their melting points. Using this would have saved countless lives of people who died in fires from smoke inhalation of burning plastics. But they didn't.

Might have reduced their recyclability...
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2017
TB, wouldn't that have been more evil government regulation of saintly businessmen's efforts to increase profit-margins?

There would be less cash available to bribe the congressional toadies for the Wall Street Casino. And that would be the ultimate sin for those worshiping at the altar of Mammon.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.