Using Nanoporous Materials to Capture Nuclear Waste

From left to right, PhD student Gabriel Brunet is standing beside Professor Muralee Murugesu. Gabriel is holding up a small bottle of orange liquid that both him and Dr. Murugesu are studying.

Muralee Murugesu with Gabriel Brunet, Damir A. Safin, Mohammad Z. Aghaji, Koen Robeyns, Ilia Korobkov and Tom K. Woo

Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences

Professor Muralee Murugesu leads a team of brilliant researchers here at the University of Ottawa. They focus on the design and study of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are porous frameworks made up of metal nodes and organic linkers that have the potential to replace older technologies used in gas storage, catalysis, and molecular separations. One area of application of this new storage technology that shows great promise is nuclear energy. Modern society is continually striving to keep pace with an ever-increasing demand for energy, while also attempting to minimize adverse environmental effects. Today, nuclear power plants supply over 11% of the world’s energy. Although this energy generation method does provide the benefit of emitting minimal amounts of greenhouse gases, particular attention must be paid to nuclear waste management, including the safe handling and management of rising amounts of radioactive waste. The capture and isolation of highly mobile volatile gases produced during nuclear fission is an extensive area of research in the field of capture materials. Professor Murugesu’s group has successfully identified a unique and dynamic set of host-guest interactions that pave the way for the next generation of materials capable of rapidly isolating radioactive iodine, a by-product of nuclear fission. In experiments using gas, the group were the first to explain how gaseous iodine is systematically incorporated into the cavities of a nanoporous framework. Furthermore, they were the first to directly observe the dynamic binding of a gaseous guest that exhibits covalent bonding motifs in a single site of absorption. Finally, at saturation, this material displayed a near record-breaking iodine uptake capacity! Fundamental research into the dynamics and site selection of gaseous substrates is imperative for the continuous improvement of these materials. Professor Murugesu’s research will allow for a rational design of high-performing systems to capture radioactive iodine.

Read more: Stepwise crystallographic visualization of dynamic guest binding in a nanoporous framework

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