Laser Isotope Separation

General Information  

Full Title
Creation of a Technological Laser Complex for Laser Separation of Middle Mass Isotopes.

Tech Area / Field
  • FIR-ISO: Fission Reactors / Isotopes

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 Project completed

Senior Project Manager
Karabashev S G

Project Officer/Assistant
Mitina L M

Leading Institute
NIIEFA Efremov

Supporting institutes

  • A&R Materials, Inc.
  • Isonics Corporation

Project Summary  

There is a high interest in middle mass isotopes world-wide, particularly in carbon and oxygen isotopes. Stable isotopes of these elements are widely used as tagged atoms in chemistry, biology, physiology, biochemistry and medicine to investigate the mechanism of chemical bonding, process of substances exchange in living organism, the mechanism of molecular heredity, etc.

Owing to the possibility of the wide use of carbon isotopes there is a necessity for C-12 and C-13 manufacturing on in industrial scale. Over the last 20 years in the USA, the UK and the USSR some industrial installations have been built for producing highly concentrated C-13 isotope using the method of the low-temperature rectification of CO. However, the cost of isotope manufacturing by that method is very high. In accordance with expert evaluations, if isotope costs decrease by a factor of 5-7 the demand for isotopes will increase more then 10 times.

One of the ways to decrease the prime cost of carbon isotope manufacturing is the use of laser processes. The laser method of isotope separation was investigated in laboratories in detail during last 10 years. However there is no industrial adaptation of these methods, except probably uranium isotopes manufacturing. It is caused by a lack of laser appropriate for industrial use.

In NIIEFA in 1988-1991 research and design work was conducted to reach the possibility of creating a pilot-industrial complex for isotope separation.

To realize the present Project it is necessary to upgrade some units of the present pulse-periodic TEA CO2-laser with the rated power of 4 kW, developed and manufactured in NIIEPA and assembled in the "Laser equipment and technology" Center.

After upgrading the laser complex, an optimization of laser parameters is carried out, followed by reliability and life-time testing. At the same time the start and the optimization of parameters of two other system is carried out: the separation unit, in which selective disassociation of the working substance under the influence of the laser radiation is conducted, and the system of gas seals connecting the laser and the separation units. All necessary upgrading of these units must be done at the pilot plant of NIIEFA.

Developing and manufacturing of the processing equipment for removal of the enriched product from separation unit, its refining and for the final enrichment of the isotope material, will utilize personal from the Central Designers Bureau of Engineering in the city of St. Petersburg. After manufacturing of the processing equipment of the unit of the enriched substance refining the assembly of this equipment is carried out in the "Laser equipment and technology" Center of NIIEFA and it starts together with the laser unit. Subsequently it is carried out the optimization of parameters of the laser separation complex and getting its working regime and also polishing up of the automated control unit following by the analyses of the complex reliability.

Perfecting the laser manufacturing of middle mass isotopes, will require the efforts of scientists and engineers who are familiar with the technologies associated with heavy isotope separation.