Putting the ‘f’ in chemistry: A molecular exploration of the elements hidden in our nuclear waste legacy

The subtleties of structure in compounds of uranium, the heaviest naturally occurring element, and its neighbours in the ‘f-block’ at the bottom of the periodic table are still poorly-understood. A better understanding is needed to develop environmentally cleaner ways to extract technology-critical rare earth metals, and for the safe, long-term handling of our nuclear waste. <p> Drawing on our research to make exotic new molecules, we will explore what chemistry can teach us about these complicated, important metals and how they make bonds. We will also think about all the opportunities for new science such as the greener synthesis of biodegradable polymers, and cleaner ways to isolate the metals that may be needed for quantum computers in the future.