A uranium complex that is activated by exposure to light to lose nitrogen and produce a uranium nitride complex is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Chemistry. The ability to generate and study well-defined terminal uranium nitride compounds could provide important insights into generating and reprocessing a potentially alternative form of nuclear fuel.
Nuclear power is a key element of our energy supply and uranium nitride is a promising form nuclear fuel that has great potential for the future of nuclear power; however, very little is known about the uranium-nitrogen triple bond, which is a key part of the material.
Jaqueline Kiplinger and colleagues created a uranium-nitrogen complex that interacts with light to generate a terminal uranium-nitrogen triple bond. This is the first such compound to be generated using light. The short-lived complex is reactive and cleaves a strong carbon-hydrogen bond to form new nitrogen-hydrogen and nitrogen-arbon bonds. This demonstrates that the uranium-nitrogen triple bond is not inert and can undergo reactions with strong bonds.