Recently, academician Prof. Bi Shi’s research group in the Department of Biomass and Leather Engineering published one article entitled "Engineering Robust Metal - Phenolic Network Membranes for Uranium Extraction from Seawater" in Energy & Environmental Science (impact factor of 30.067). The first author of this thesis is Wei Luo, a 2016 Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomass and Leather Engineering, college of Light Industry, Textile and Food Engineering. The research was jointly guided by Academician Bi Shi, Professor Xuepin Liao and Dr. Junling Guo. Sichuan University is the first completion unit of this paper. The official website of Sichuan University reported on the results on October 28, 2018.
Nuclear fuel uranium plays an increasingly important role in China's national economy and national defense construction. The large-scale development and utilization of nuclear energy have become an inevitable choice with the rapid development of China's economy and the depletion of global fossil energy. Roughly 4.5 billion tons of uranium exists in the ocean, which is 2,000 times more than the amount of uranium found on land. If uranium can be extracted effectively from the ocean, it can provide a nearly inexhaustible supply for nuclear power production. However, the extraction of uranium from seawater is highly challenging due the background high salinity and uranium’s relatively low concentration. Developing high-selective and large-flow separation materials and reducing costs is a difficult point in the development of uranium capture from seawater.
Academician Prof. Bi Shi’s research group, through the cross-integration of leather, chemical industry, materials and other disciplines, uses uranium to selectively form a stable complex with polyphenols, and fixes plant polyphenols (tannin) on microporous membranes. The new membrane material for seawater extraction and uranium with large flux, high selectivity and multiple cycles can be constructed, which solves the key problems of high selectivity and economy in seawater uranium extraction.
Figure 1.Polyphenol functionalization and formation of MPN-based microporous membrane.
Figure 2.Marine field studies and techno-economic analysis of uranium extraction from seawater