LCW, a Moscow, Idaho clean energy company with early support from PNNL through DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, developed an acrylic fiber which attracts and holds on to dissolved uranium naturally present in ocean water.
LCW is applying for further SBIR funding for a uranium extraction field demonstration, to be led by PNNL, in the Gulf of Mexico, where the water is much warmer. The material performs much better in warmer water and extraction rates in the Gulf are expected to be three to five times higher, therefore making it more economical to obtain uranium from seawater.
They have chemically modified regular, inexpensive yarn, to convert it into an adsorbent which is selective for uranium, efficient and reusable," said Chien Wai, president of LCW Supercritical Technologies.
The adsorbent material is inexpensive, according to Wai. In fact, he said, even waste yarn can be used to create the polymer fiber.