More 60-Second Science
But a better way might be to fish it out with nanofibers of chitin—the stuff shrimp and lobster shells are made of. Rather than start from scratch, researchers spun threads of chitin from liquefied shrimp shells. They chemically modified the nanofibers to make them stick to uranium, and dropped them in uranium-spiked water. After three days, they found that the shrimp-shell fibers had indeed collected uranium from the solution. They presented that research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (pdf).
It's still too early to know how efficient the process is. But researchers say the nanofibers' huge surface area should allow for more harvesting power than the current plastic thread method. And chitin's biodegradable, thus more environmentally friendly, which is after all, nuclear power’s selling point in a warming world.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]