The geochemical abundance of Uranium in seawater is about 3 ppb. Right from the 1960s of the last century, researchers have been experimenting with various techniques to recover Uranium from Seawater. The Japanese have been at the forefront of this effort in view of their lacking any major terrestrial Uranium deposits in their country and a major nuclear power programme undertaken by them to meet their energy demands. Japanese scientists succeeded in a field test in the year 2003 undertaken in the sea of Okinawa to recover one kilogram of the yellow metal by employing a mat of plastic fibers integrated with molecules / ligands like polyacrylamidoxime that preferentially adsorb Uranium.
Prof. Robin Rogers of the University of Alabama has presented a new technique developed by his group at the 244th meeting of the American Chemical Society held in this month (August 2012) in USA. The novelty of the method is the utilization of discarded shrimp shells for making the Uranium-absorbing mats, which has resulted in doubling the recovery of Uranium when contrasted with the Japanese methodology. It is interesting to note that in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, a large volume of shells accumulated for disposal as waste, that led to this application almost fortuitously.