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Entries in Nuclear Power (1)

Monday
Oct112010

Could Nuclear Power Fuel Your Car?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ALAMOS, N.M.) -- A newly discovered form of uranium could lead to a nuclear power plant small enough to fit in your car and eventually even power it.

Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a long-sought molecule known as uranium nitride. Besides offering cheaper and safer nuclear fuel, the new molecule could extract more energy from fossil fuels, making cars more fuel-efficient, while potentially leading to cheaper drugs.

"Actinide nitrides are candidate nuclear fuels of the future," said Jaqueline Kiplinger, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the team of researchers on the recent Nature Chemistry paper.

Uranium nitride could lead to smaller, cheaper and even portable nuclear power plants. NASA, Hyperion Power Generation and other organizations are all looking at using uranium nitride as a next generation nuclear fuel in their reactors.

Despite uranium's association with deadly radiation, the new molecule contains depleted uranium, which is relatively harmless from a radiological standpoint and offers many opportunities in catalytic and industrial applications.

The ability to quickly and reliably destroy carbon-hydrogen bonds could make drugs and other industrially important chemicals cheaper. Many of these compounds are petroleum-based. It takes high temperatures, high pressures and multiple steps to refine oil into everyday items.

If this new molecule could do the job at room temperature, room pressure and in a single step, it would save time and money.

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