Newly discovered nanoporous crystal can clear out radioactive waste efficiently

London, June 13: An international team of scientists has discovered a material that can clear up nuclear waste gases produced by nuclear-fuel reprocessing plants more efficiently, cheaply and safely than currently available methods.

The material, abbreviated as SBMOF-1, is a nanoporous crystal and belongs to a class of materials that are currently used to clear out CO2 emissions and other dangerous pollutants.

The team led by scientists from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland carried out the screening of large material databases of over 125,000 candidates before identifying SBMOF-1 as the likely material to be able to absorb nuclear waste gases like xenon and krypton emitted as by-products of nuclear-fuel reprocessing.

Current ways of capturing and clearing out these gases involve distillation at very low temperatures, which is expensive and poses a risk of explosion.

SBMOF-1 can separate xenon and krypton at room temperature, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

These materials are also very versatile, and scientists can tweak them to self-assemble into ordered, pre-determined crystal structures.

In this way, they can synthesise millions of tailor-made materials that can be optimised for gas storage separation, catalysis, chemical sensing and optics.