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New compound may immobilize AIDS virus, certain radionuclides

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A compound that could potentially immobilize the AIDS virus or selectively extract radionuclides from nuclear wastes at various U.S.high-level storage sites has been developed by a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories who wasn't even looking for it.

An article in the current issue of Science describes characteristics of the newly discovered, extremely active compound, called niobium heteropolyanions (hetero-poly-an-ions) or HPAs.

"It wasn't difficult to synthesize, it was luck," lead researcher May Nyman says of her discovery. "I wasn't going after it intentionally, but after I found it, I realized I had something new and exciting."

Nyman found the right conditions to synthesize the first niobium HPA, and then tweaked to create an assortment of them.

The entities became the first niobium HPAs ever reported - basic materials formed inexpensively at the relatively benign and easily achievable temperature and pressure of boiling water.

Unlike other HPAs, niobium HPAs are basic rather than acidic, which means they can survive longer and possibly even thrive in the generally basic or neutral environments of radioactive wastes and blood, respectively.

Preliminary work with Savannah River site indicates that the new compounds do indeed selectively remove certain radionuclides from their waste solutions.

To bind viruses, researchers have tested a host of HPA compositions, says Nyman. "In these exhaustive studies, it's been found that HPAs with small amounts of iron or niobium have an especially strong binding effect. Now we have HPAs that are completely niobium."

HPAs in the form of oxides of vanadium, tungsten, and molybdenum have been known to researchers since the late 19th century. The compounds' peripheries consist of voraciously active oxygen ions. These have long intrigued researchers because of their capabilities to do much useful chemistry, including bind viruses and large m
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Contact: Neal Singer
nsinger@sandia.gov
505-845-7078
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
14-Aug-2002


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