Scientists at the University of Manchester, where the atom was first split a century ago, announced another atomic discovery on Monday, which they claimed would have a global impact.
"There are still surprising gaps in our knowledge about how actinide elements form chemical bonds with other elements. One of the big questions is the extent to which electrons are shared between the elements, known as covalency," said a spokesman with the university.
Researchers at Manchester used a technique known as pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) to measure how key elements form those chemical bonds.
Because the extent of covalency has a huge effect on the chemistry of elements, the new knowledge could lead to the development of actinide chemistry, according to the researchers.
The elements are said to be important in the separation and recycling of nuclear waste, which is extremely significant especially when more nuclear power stations are built as the availability of fossil fuels around the world is reducing.
The research, published in the Nature Chemistry journal, was led by Dr. David Mills, Dr. Floriana Tuna and professor Eric McInnes from the University of Manchester's School of Chemistry.
Mills said "Now that we have proven that is possible to measure actinide covalency by pulsed EPR spectroscopy, I am very excited about the multiple avenues of research that we can now pursue. We will be able to gain insights and challenge assumptions about f-elements, the area of the periodic table where our understanding currently lags behind that of other elements."
Ernest Rutherford changed the world in 1917 when he split the atom at the University of Manchester, paving the way for the development of nuclear power, as well as cancer-fighting radiotherapy.
This new discovery was another atomic breakthrough made by the university after that.