£1m to study the molecular chemistry of depleted Uranium

17 Nov 2009 10:13:00.000

PA 294/09

A scientist at The University of Nottingham has been recognised for his outstanding and creative early career research with a prestigious €1m (£893,775) grant to study speculative and ground-breaking research into molecular depleted uranium chemistry. 

Dr Steve Liddle, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and lecturer in the School of Chemistry, has been awarded a Starting Independent Research Grant (StG) by the newly established European Research Council (ERC).  The award is the first of its kind for The University of Nottingham.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct from uranium enrichment and of no use in nuclear applications because the radioactive component has been removed. It has varied applications ranging from counterweight balances in airplanes to radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy. However, the molecular chemistry of uranium is poorly understood and developing it could enable a readily available, but thus far ignored resource, to be used for new and safe applications in the future.

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Dr Liddle said: “Uranium suffers somewhat from negative PR. However, there is great potential for complexes of Uranium-238 (depleted uranium) to provide new catalysts, insight into nuclear waste separation technologies and provide useful applications for the stocks of waste depleted uranium around the world. The project will also provide valuable knowledge about Actinide chemistry, one of the least understood sections of the periodic table.” 

The award will support new projects and ideas for fundamental molecular uranium chemistry by developing new compounds containing uranium-metal bonds, assessing their intrinsic reactivity patterns, defining structure-bonding-reactivity relationships, and developing a better understanding of actinide chemical bonding from an integrated experimental and theoretical approach.    

The ERC StG scheme aims to identify and support the very best and creative early career independent researchers in Europe via five-year consolidated funding to pursue speculative and ground-breaking frontier research.  

Dr Liddle’s work has attracted much interest internationally. This year his research has been highlighted in journals such as Chemistry World, Chemical and Engineering News and Chemistry in Australia. Dr Liddle has obtained several previous grants related to this work including one from EPSRC entitled UNCLE: Uranium in Non-Conventional Ligand Environments. He has also received funding from the Royal Society and was an invited speaker at this year’s Washington DC American Chemical Society conference.  

Dr Liddle is also a regular contributor to the School of Chemistry’s award winning Periodic Table of Videos — www.periodicvideos.com. The website, created by Brady Haran, the University’s film maker in residence, won the 2008 IChemE Petronas Award for excellence in education and training.


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings. 

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five. 

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. 

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City. 

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Steve Liddle on +44 (0)115 846 7167, stephen.liddle@nottingham.ac.uk

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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