Germanium-76 Isotope Separation by Cryogenic Distillation

Period of Performance: 01/01/2005 - 12/31/2005


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Medical Isotopes, Inc.
9 Valleyview Road
Pelham, NH 03076
Principal Investigator


78790S The current method for germanium isotope separation, needed for rare particle and rare decay searches in nuclear physics research, is electromagnetic separation using calutrons, a process that has the disadvantage of low separation capacity and high energy cost. This project will build a cryogenic distillation column in which larger quantities of germanium isotopes can be separated at a significantly lower cost. The germanium metal will be reacted with hydrogen to produce germanium hydride as a room temperature gas. In Phase I, a prototype cryogenic distillation column will be built. Germanium hydride will be used as feed stock in the column to achieve the separation of the germanium isotopes. The pilot-size distillation column will be operated to optimize the parameters for germanium isotopes separation. The data will be used to build and operate an industrial-size production column. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: The cryogenic distillation technology should enable the separation of germanium-76 in hundreds of Kg per year at a much lower cost. The enriched Ge-76 will be used by the scientists to build Germanium-76 detectors for the "The Majorana Zero Neutrino Double-Beta Decay Experiment", an international collaboration of scientists from the USA, Russia, Japan, and Canada. The technology also should find use in the economical separation of other metal isotopes in large quantities. The metal isotopes are the basis for producing radio-isotopes that can be used in SPECT and PET diagnostics and other medical applications.