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Research

Removing Toxic Metals From Water Sources

LCW has recently developed a highly efficient, robust, and low-cost polymer adsorbent which is capable of removing various metal species including arsenic, cadmium, cesium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, palladium, rare earth elements, strontium, thorium, uranium, and vanadium from water.

 

The LCW fiber adsorbent can be used to remediate industrial waste water remediation, clean-up contaminated waterways and remove toxic metals from drinking water. The LCW fiber adsorbent can be deployed in natural water systems and retrieved after metal adsorption, a property which cannot be easily matched by commercial ion exchange resins.

Extracting Uranium from Seawater

Uranium is currently the main fuel for the production of nuclear energy in generating electricity in many countries. According to a recent estimate, land-based uranium sources will depleted by the end of this century. Our oceans contain far more uranium (>1000 times) than that in the terrestrial ores and would be sufficient to support nuclear power production for the next few centuries if it could be extracted economically. Developing techniques for extracting uranium from seawater becomes essential to guarantee our uranium supply for nuclear power production in the future. However, the low concentration of uranium (~3 ppb) in seawater and its stable chemical form, i.e. uranyl tris-carbonato complex, makes the extraction of uranium from seawater extremely difficult.

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In collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and a grant from the Department of Energy, LCW has created a series of polymer fibers that can extract uranium effectively from seawater. The fibers have been tested for adsorption of uranium from seawater using a circulating column system at PNNL’s Marine Sciences Lab located in Sequim, Washington and show very high uranium adsorption capacities (between 5-6 g uranium per kg of adsorbent) after 56 days of exposure to seawater.

Urban Mining

We can use supercritical fluid carbon dioxide as a solvent for recycling rare earth elements from electronic wastes, including computer magnets (Nd-Fe-B) and rare earth phosphors from fluorescent lamps.

Nuclear Waste Management

We are developing supercritical fluid-based technologies for industrial-scale metal processing and for nuclear waste management.