Capturing Uranium

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published: 16 September 2010
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Journal of the American Chemical Society/ACS Publications
thumbnail image: Capturing Uranium

The Earth’s oceans are a source of uranium, but due to the low concentration of uranyl ions (UO22+) (3 ppb) and the abundance of other cations the extraction of uranium requires chelating agents with high affinity and selectivity.


Julius Rebek and colleagues, Scripps Research Institute, USA, report a tripodal ligand capable of extracting uranyl ions from aqueous solutions. The ligand consists of a rigid skeleton with three carboxylates that can bind uranyl in a bidentate manner.


Extraction experiments at 400 ppm of uranyl ion showed 59 % of the uranyl ions were extracted into the organic phase. In the presence of Cl, Na+, Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, and SO42–, at levels similar to those in seawater, the chelating ligand showed high selectivity and no lessening of function with 59 % of UO22+ being transferred to the organic phase.


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