Research highlight

Seeing uranium nitride in a new light

Nature Chemistry

July 12, 2010

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.

doi: 10.1038/nchem.705

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