Maybe the folks at Fukushima should hear about this, or more precisely those handling the recovery process, which is far from over: as the latest discovery in the field, the Notre Dame Thorium Borate-1 (NDTB-1) is apparently just what you need to clean up a radioactive mess.
Although the current trend is all for clean energy from renewable sources, there are still countries which rely on nuclear energy for their needs. Thus, there are more than 436 nuclear power plants in 30 countries and the radionuclide technetium (99Tc) is there at almost every site. Only last year there were 305 metric tons of 99Tc collected for a period of 67 years. So yes, radioactive ions are something to be dealt with.
In consequence, a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame, coordinated by professor of civil engineering and geological sciences Thomas E. Albrecht-Schmitt, claim this crystalline compound, in a modified form, can be used to “eat out” the radioactive ions from nuclear waste streams. Their framework of channels and cages of very small pores makes possible an exchange between anions with a environmental contaminants like chromate and pertechnetate.
However, what does one do with the ions afterwards? The answer is they can be secured and recycled as a material. Apparently, the success rate of the NDTB-1 crystals is fairy high, “curing” 96$ of the amount of 99Tc. Check out the Advanced Functional Materials if you want to find out more, but it’s a pretty nice knowing that you have a solution in emergency cases.
[via Notre Dame News]