Nuclear waste is tough to handle, and can take thousands of years to decay before it becomes safe again. The waste contains non-toxic sodium ions and highly radioactive cesium isotopes. Removing these harmful isotopes has been difficult as most materials cannot “differentiate” between the radioactive ions and the non-toxic ones. Scientists Mercouri Kanatzidis and Nan Ding from US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, and Northwestern Universtiy respectively, have now come up with a material that could handle these cesium isotopes better.
The sulfide framework created by these scientists works quite like the Venus Fly Trap. That is, just like the plant responds to, and preys on flies, the framework is especially suited for preying on cesium isotopes. In an experiment, researchers found that while the sodium ions freely moved through the negatively charged framework, the cesium isotopes altered the structure of the framework and became “fixed” with sulfide ring.
Since this is quite unique in operation, the sulfide framework could be used for cleanup at different sites around the world.