Laser Isotope Separation (LIS) is of interest for elements that do not have a chemically stable gaseous form and therefore can not be enriched in centrifuges. We investigate commercially feasible LIS routes leading towards small-scale production of rare isotopes, such as Calcium-44, Gadolinium-152, Ytterbium-168 and Palladium-102. These isotopes are precursors for shortlived radioactive isotopes, which find wide-scale application in medicine, such as cancer treatment and monitoring studies.
Spectroscopic investigations are performed to find a suitable route leading to ionization of only the desired isotope. This route has to be sufficiently efficient such that only a few photons are required to ionize the atom. We make use of Nd: YAG pumped high-repetition rate (>18 kHz), narrow-band Titanium-Sapphire lasers. These lasers provide high power at the fundamental wavelength (~800
nm) as well as at the second- (~400 nm) and third harmonic (~270 nm). So far for Ytterbium and Gadolinium suitable routes leading to separation have been found. Samples of 96.5 % pure Ytterbium-176 have been produced at 10 mg/h production rates.
A view of the Gadolinium oven. An atomic beam is formed at 1800 K.
The glowing Gd and the blue laser-induced fluorescence are clearly visible.