Researchers from the University of Manchester recently demonstrated fully scalable prototypes of graphene membranes capable of producing heavy water. This new development could possibly lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions associated with heavy water production by up to a million tonnes each year.
the Manchester team presented fully scalable prototype membranes and demonstrated isotope separation in pilot scale studies. They found that the high efficiency of the separation would allow for a significant reduction of the input amount of raw isotope mixtures that needs to be processed. This reduces both the capital costs and the energy requirements.
They estimated over one hundred times less energy to produce heavy water would be required compared to competing technologies – even larger energy savings are anticipated for tritium decontamination.
Sir Andre Geim, added: "Tritium discharged both from nuclear power plants and as a result of environmental disasters is a major global concern. We believe this technology can economically transform the environmental footprint of future nuclear plants."
Producing heavy water is needed by the nuclear industry, but it is an expensive process. Graphene's unique material properties may give it the potential to effectively separate sub-atomic particles, making this process more efficient and cost-effective.