AUTHORZare, Richard N.
TITLELaser Separation of Isotopes
PERIODICAL TITLEScientific American
DATE PUBLISHED1977
VOLUME NUMBER236
ISSUE NUMBER2 (February)
PAGE NUMBERS86-98
ISSN0036-8733
Web Access
Available online from Stanford University


This article explains how separating isotopes, once costly and difficult, has become easier and more economical using lasers. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that differ only in the number of neutrons in their nuclei and thus cannot be separated by ordinary chemical methods. However, lasers are able to distinguish between small variations in electronic structure and thereby separate the isotopes. The article describes the work of scientists who made discoveries in laser separation and describes the complications and solutions for that type of separation. It explains that the process could be useful for nuclear power by separating uranium-235 from uranium-238. The article includes helpful diagrams.


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