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Power Science

Improving Uranium Extraction From Seawater, Inspired by Shrimp 122

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the unlimited-uranium-biscuts-at-red-lobster dept.
New submitter Celarent Darii writes "Prospects for harvesting Uranium from seawater turned interesting by using shrimp shells as a sort of catalyst." Researchers at ORNL presented their findings from a test of a chitin net for harvesting Uranium at the ACS fall meeting. From the ORNL press release: "In a direct comparison to the current state-of-the-art adsorbent, HiCap provides significantly higher uranium adsorption capacity, faster uptake and higher selectivity, according to test results. Specifically, HiCap's adsorption capacity is seven times higher (146 vs. 22 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent) in spiked solutions containing 6 parts per million of uranium at 20 degrees Celsius. In seawater, HiCap's adsorption capacity of 3.94 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent was more than five times higher than the world's best at 0.74 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent. The numbers for selectivity showed HiCap to be seven times higher."
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Improving Uranium Extraction From Seawater, Inspired by Shrimp

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  • Chitin (Score:4, Informative)

    by drwho (4190) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @10:45AM (#41081903) Homepage Journal

    Chitin is also what makes up the body shells of insects. While these molten salts mentioned may be the best way to extract chitin, it also is soluble in d-limonene, an extract of citrus fruit peels.

    This would be very good news, if people valued it properly. As much as a think the LFTR (which doesn't depend on uranium as a fuel) is a better type of reactor, there are limitations on its fuel source, which is thorium. Thorium is more plentiful, but it is not water soluble, so it doesn't benefit from this type of mining technique.

  • Re:Does it pan out? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SQL Error (16383) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:00AM (#41082117)

    It's not economically feasible now, but the energy balance works out. Even with the previous method that was only 1/5th as efficient, you got much more energy out of the uranium than was required to collect it.

    Seawater moves around, and the process still isn't that efficient, so you wouldn't have any problems with decreased concentration.

    The reason this is valuable is not so much that it's economical today, as that there's enough uranium in the ocean to provide all our electricity needs for millions of years.

  • Re:Does it pan out? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SQL Error (16383) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:29AM (#41082481)

    30 to 150 million cubic metres per second. So 12 minutes of Gulf Stream flow would contain enough uranium to supply our present needs for a year.

    Though if you could tap the entire Gulf Stream you'd have another source of energy at hand...

  • more Uranium? (Score:2, Informative)

    by spongman (182339) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:31AM (#41082525)

    Uranium sucks:

    • it's only mined significantly in a few countries, several of which don't like us.
    • it's hard to mine.
    • it's dangerous to mine [wikipedia.org].
    • there's not much left.
    • it's difficult to use - you have to extract the fissile isotope [wikipedia.org] first.
    • this enrichment process [wikipedia.org] is useful for making bombs [wikipedia.org]
    • when you do get to use it, it produces large amounts of hazardous waste [wikipedia.org].
    • some of that waste [wikipedia.org] can also be used to make bombs [wikipedia.org]

    unless you're talking Uranium-233 [wikipedia.org] bred in a thorium-fueled reactor, of course...

  • Re:Does it pan out? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:34AM (#41082569)

    You left out a few prefixes of "million" and "milli", making your analysis way off, at first. There are 30 million cubic meters per sec of gulf stream flow. there are 3 milligrams of Uranium per cubic meter of seawater. So that's 90 Kilos of Uranium per second.

    But you're unlikely to be able to intercept more than a thousandth of the gulf stream, so we're back to 90 g per second. the goofs cancel out!

  • Re:But...? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rasmusbr (2186518) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:51AM (#41082825)

    Wikipedia says there's 3.3 mg uranium per m^3 of seawater and the volume of the world's oceans adds up to 1.3*10^18 m^3, which means that there's 4.4*10^12 kg of uranium in the oceans, or roughly 400 kg per human in a world with 10 billion humans. That's a lot of uranium...

    I don't suppose much is known about the rate at which it replenishes, but I bet scientists will be able to find out about that long before we begin to see measurable depletion of seawater uranium on a global scale.

  • Re:But...? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dasunt (249686) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:48PM (#41083661)

    I don't suppose much is known about the rate at which it replenishes, but I bet scientists will be able to find out about that long before we begin to see measurable depletion of seawater uranium on a global scale.

    However, rivers bring more uranium into the sea all the time, in fact 3.2x10^4 tonne per year.

    - Source [stanford.edu]

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