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Laser Isotope Enrichment for Medical and Industrial Applications

[+] Author Affiliations
Jeff W. Eerkens

University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Jay F. Kunze

Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

Leonard J. Bond

Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID

Paper No. ICONE14-89767, pp. 483-492; 10 pages
  • 14th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • Volume 3: Structural Integrity; Nuclear Engineering Advances; Next Generation Systems; Near Term Deployment and Promotion of Nuclear Energy
  • Miami, Florida, USA, July 17–20, 2006
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4244-4 | eISBN: 0-7918-3783-1
  • Copyright © 2006 by ASME


Use of lasers for isotope separation has been considered for many decades. None of the proposed methods have attained sufficient proof of principal status to be economically attractive to pursue commercially. Some of the authors have succeeded in separating sulfur isotopes using a rather new and different method, known as condensation repression. In this scheme, a gas of the selected isotopes for enrichment is irradiated with a laser at a particular wavelength that would excite only one of the isotopes. The entire gas is subjected to low temperatures sufficient to cause condensation on a cold surface or coagulation in the gas. Those molecules in the gas that the laser excited are not as likely to condense or dimerize (coagulate into a double molecule, called a dimer) as unexcited molecules. Hence in cold-wall condensation, gas drawn out of the system is enriched in the isotope that was laser-excited. We have evaluated the relative energy required in this process if applied on a commercial scale. We estimate the energy required for laser isotope enrichment is about 30% of that required in centrifuge separations, and 2% of that required by use of “calutrons”.

Copyright © 2006 by ASME



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