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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R033366/1
Title: Computational Design of Graphene-Based Materials for Challenging Nuclear Decommissioning Applications
Principal Investigator: Williams, Dr C D
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
National Nuclear Laboratory
Department: Chem Eng and Analytical Science
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 August 2018 Ends: 31 July 2021 Value (£): 302,361
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 May 2018 Energy Fellowship Interviews May 2018 Announced
07 Feb 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 February 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The safe decommissioning of facilities used in the nuclear fuel cycle (nuclear fuel reprocessing, research and development and energy production) is a major socio-economic challenge facing the UK, with a predicted total cost of £120bn over the next 120 years. The decommissioning process will generate large volumes of water-based waste (effluent) which is radioactive and must be treated. As well as a number of specific challenges associated with the current materials and processes used to treat effluent, many new challenges are likely arise in the near future as decommissioning activity gathers pace. Overcoming these challenges is critical in the context of establishing public confidence in the management of radioactive waste as well as underpinning the UK's long-term energy strategy.

Graphene oxide, a derivative of graphene with a high oxygen content, has exceptional properties which have already been demonstrated in other fields (e.g. desalination), and may be able to overcome the limitations faced by the materials currently used in effluent treatment. Graphene oxide could be used to treat effluents in two separate ways. Firstly, graphene oxide flakes could be added to the effluent and used to directly bind radioactive species (adsorption). Alternatively, a semi-permeable membrane, fabricated from individual graphene oxide flakes, could be used to sieve out the radioactive species (filtration).

In this innovative and ambitious project, the science underpinning the use of graphene oxide in nuclear effluent treatment will be developed using a methodology led by computer simulation. Firstly, the development of new 'coarse-grained' models of graphene oxide will significantly extend the length and time scales accessible to simulation and open up the possibility of investigating the stability of graphene oxide membranes and dispersions. Using the new models, the efficacy of graphene oxide for the treatment of effluents containing some of the most problematic and dangrous radioactive species (e.g. uranium, plutonium, caesium and strontium) will be assessed, delivering the relevant physical and thermodynamic data required for the next stage of process development. The design and performance of graphene oxide will be optimised to improve decontamination factors for specific effluent treatment challenges. As a result, the project has the potential to revolutionise the techniques used in the treatment of radioactive effluent.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk