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Proceedings Paper

Isotope separation by laser technology
Author(s): Wolfgang Stoll
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Paper Abstract

Isotope separation processes operate on very small differences, given either by the Quotient of masses with the same number of electrons or by their mass difference. When separating isotopes of light elements in mass quantities, thermodynamic processes accounting for the quotient, either in diffusion, chemical reactivity or distillation are used. For heavy elements those quotients are very small. Therefore they need a large number of separation steps. Large plants with high energy consumption result from that. As uranium isotope separation is the most important industrial field, alternatives, taking account for the mass difference, as e.g. gas centrifuges, have been developed. They use only a fraction of the energy input, but need a very large number of machines, as the individual throughput is small. Since it was discovered, that molecules of high symmetry like Uranium-Hexafluoride as a deep-cooled gas stream can be ionized by multiple photon excitation, this process was studied in detail and in competition to the selective ionization of metal vapors, as already demonstrated with uranium. The paper reports about the principles of the laser excitation for both processes, the different laboratory scale and prototypical plants built, the difficulties with materials, as far as the metal vapor laser separation is concerned, and the difficulties experienced in the similarity in molecular spectra. An overview of the relative economic merits of the different processes and the auspices in a saturated market for uranium isotope separation, together with other potential markets for molecular laser separation, is contained in the conclusions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 26 March 2002
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 4747, International Conference on Atomic and Molecular Pulsed Lasers IV, (26 March 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.460136
Show Author Affiliations
Wolfgang Stoll, Institute for the Industrial Environment (Germany)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4747:
International Conference on Atomic and Molecular Pulsed Lasers IV

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