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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 19:08 GMT
Hopes for nuclear waste 'Pacman'
Pacman molecule
The Pacman-shaped molecule may have uses in handling waste
Researchers have designed a molecule which they hope may help develop ways of dealing with nuclear waste.

Scientists at Edinburgh University have taken uranium and enclosed it in a specially designed molecular "scaffold" to make it more reactive.

They said no-one had "tricked" uranium like this before and experts hope to discover new ways of removing uranium from contaminated water.

The new compound was described as resembling Pacman with a horn.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

The new uranium molecule behaves in a similar way to the more reactive and radioactive plutonium, which is another problematic component of nuclear waste.

The findings may also help develop a better understanding of plutonium compounds and also widen the potential use of uranium as a safer alternative in place of plutonium for research purposes.

Polly Arnold, of Edinburgh University's school of chemistry, said: "We have tricked uranium into behaving in a way that it has never before - these findings will help scientists in the future to better understand the behaviour of these materials and ultimately improve our ability to deal with nuclear materials and waste."

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