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Electromagnetic Separation

March 18, 2013

Introduction to electromagnetic separation

Electromagnetic separation is the process of separating the charged ions of by subjecting them to electromagnetic field. When charged ions are passed through electromagnetic field, they deflect. The extent of deflection depends on the particles mass and is different for different charged ions or isotopes.

Electromagnetic separation process

This process is used in obtaining iron from iron ore and in separation of other substances from impurities. If the substance is attracted to a magnet, then this process can be used. Generally the isotopes of an element have similar physical characteristic or chemical properties, however when subject to nuclear reaction, they may behave differently. A major property that differentiates the isotopes is their mass. Electromagnetic separation uses this concept and electromagnetic theory.

separator

Picture of an Electromagnetic separator1

Electromagnetic Separation Process for isotopes

Here is an example of an electromagnetic separation process for isotopes separation

In the electromagnetic method, the element whose isotopes are to be separated is placed in what is called a crucible of an ion source for evaporation and ionization. The ions are obtained from the ionization chamber using a strong electric field, they are brought together to make a beam of ions; the beam of ions then enters a vacuum chamber for separation. The chamber is subject to a Magnetic field in a direction perpendicularly to the flow of the ions. Due to the magnetic field, the ions deflect and travel in different directions. The path is predictable based on the mass of the isotope.  The deflected ions in different path are collected separately.  This was the ions and hence the isotopes are separated.

The effectiveness of this separation process is dependent on the quality of electric field the ions are subject to and on the construction of the chamber.

Applications of electromagnetic separation

Electromagnetic separators are used in lab testing. These separators are used for separating any substance that is attracted by a magnet. They are also used in large scale production of isotopes especially radioactive isotopes.

Conclusion for electromagnetic separation

Electromagnetic separation is the process of separating the isotopes using the electromagnetic force. This process has several applications like separation of radioactive isotopes.

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