Separating isotopes

Published: Tuesday 30 November 1999

Separation of various isotopes of elements -- very important for many applications including nuclear reactors -- is usually a time-consuming and tedious job. Scientists at the University of Michigan in the US have demonstrated the separation of isotopes of boron and gallium using a tabletop laser. The researchers produced pulses that deliver 10 trillion watts of power for a mere fraction of a second. These were aimed at a target inside a vacuum chamber. Some atoms of the isotopes vaporised and got deposited on a silicon disk due to magnetic fields. The researchers intend to use the method on other applications such as depositing pure, thin films of isotopes directly onto microelectronic devices ( Physical Review Letters , Vol 83, No 13).

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