isotope separation

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The separation of the isotopes of an element from each other on the basis of slight differences in their physical properties. For laboratory quantities the most suitable device is often the mass spectrometer. On a larger scale the methods used include gaseous diffusion (widely used for separating isotopes of uranium in the form of the gas uranium hexafluoride), distillation (formerly used to produce heavy water), electrolysis (requiring cheap electrical power), thermal diffusion (formerly used to separate uranium isotopes, but now considered uneconomic), centrifuging, and laser methods (involving the excitation of one isotope and its subsequent separation by electromagnetic means).

Subjects: Chemistry — Physics.

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