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Author: Subject: Isotopic bullion
deltaH
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 14:57
Isotopic bullion


It's no secret that I'm from South Africa, a country that mines and produces a lot of gold. I am not a particular fan of the gold mining industry, it's very environmentally destructive and that for a comparatively small amount of metal that is pretty useless except as a monetary 'value' metal.

So I started thinking of how we can make much more common metals more valuable--much more valuable, so that they can be used for bullion, but without nearly as much damage as what the gold sector does.

Now take either copper or silver metal, both of which conveniently have only two stable naturally occurring isotopes and that are also reasonably distributed, i.e. for silver it is nearly a 50:50 spread and for copper its 61:39 spread between the isotopes.

Then using isotopic separation techniques, I propose to separate and enrich these from each other to make isotopically pure bullion bars that would sell for much much higher prices, probably comparable to high value precious metals like gold.

The isotopic separation consumes a lot of energy, so your isotopically enriched bullion's price then essentially becomes pegged against that of energy... this could be interesting for investors.

Finally, if you get your energy from sustainable power generation, then your bullion effectively becomes a green energy derived bullion of sorts... lots of marketing potential there and implications for sustainable economies.

Is this a good mad science idea for improved sustainability with undertones of alchemy or does it have no chance to fly?

See my blog for more details!

[Edited on 9-10-2013 by deltaH]




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elementcollector1
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 14:58


Problem is, isotopic separation often requires a centrifuge at melting temperatures - not at all easy for the amateur!



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deltaH
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 15:03


Or solvent extraction and electrowinning, routinely done for copper... but you would just have to repeat it a few hundred times to get meaningful enrichment :o

[Edited on 9-10-2013 by deltaH]




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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 15:08


I do admit this would by great for an element sample.



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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 15:37


I don't see the point. You waste a bunch of energy to isolate a specific isotope that has no practical value over the regular element. What exactly makes it more valuable? The fact that you've pumped a shit-tonne of energy into it for nothing? I doubt anyone will want to pay for spent energy that can't be recovered...

From a pure geek perspective, it would make for a damn fine element specimen!




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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 15:48


It would have value to scientists however the average ignoramus would just say wtf is an isotope.
good idea for element collecting though.




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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 15:59


Quote:
[Mining is] very environmentally destructive and that for a comparatively small amount of metal that is pretty useless except as a monetary 'value' metal. So I started thinking of how we can make much more common metals more valuable... without nearly as much damage as what the gold sector does... The isotopic separation consumes a lot of energy, so your isotopically enriched bullion's price then essentially becomes pegged against that of energy.


You may disagree with the value of this proposal, but its reason d'estre was spelled out. Mass psychology, unfortunately, most unfortunately, is as it is. Given that, I think it it's good, but changing so many people's habit would be too rough. For limited specialized purposes perhaps, but that defeats your point.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by halogen]
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 16:09


The value of goods is mostly governed by the demand/supply ratio. Precious metals have a high ratio of such: being crucial to various industries and having an aesthetic value on one hand, and being pretty scarce on the other.

Isotopically specific common metals may have a limited demand for some specific applications, but they will not be more valuable compared to the naturally occurring isotopic composition in regards to most applications. You will essentially spend a lot of money/time/energy to make a large amount of product with a very low demand.

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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 16:32


Yes. Cotton pulp is pretty darn important to industry. That's why we print "MONEY" on it.

Which industry is gold is "crucial" to? Besides jewelry.
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 16:41


Quote: Originally posted by halogen  
Yes. Cotton pulp is pretty darn important to industry. That's why we print "MONEY" on it.

Which industry is gold is "crucial" to? Besides jewelry.

How about electronics?
How about aerospace?
How about nuclear chemistry?




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bismuthate
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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 16:43


Investing
scamming




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[*] posted on 9-10-2013 at 18:23


The wiki article states

Quote:

Isotopes of Carbon, Oxygen, and Nitrogen can be purified by chilling these gases or compounds nearly to their liquification temperature in very tall columns (200 to 700 feet tall—70 to 200 meters). The heavier isotopes sink and the lighter isotopes rise, where they are easily collected. The process was developed in the late 1960s by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.[8] This process is also called "cryogenic distillation".


Could this be applied to metals? Molten potassium for example?




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deltaH
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 00:34


Hi guys, thanks all for the comments.

I actually screened the periodic table for candidates throughout. It's actually a very rare thing for an element to have few stable isotopes (or just two which is ideal), as well as having them both in something close to a 50:50 distribution and be practical for other reasons.

I was actually amazed to find that both copper and silver, the historical [other] value metals besides for gold to fit the requirements exactly. That's one HECK of a coincidence!

Anyhow, @crazyboy, I didn't want to bring this up, but yeah, when isotopes have a distribution close to 50:50, distillation becomes an attractive route to enrichment, but that would require crazy high temperatures... about 2570C in the boiler for copper at atmospheric pressure!

But this is sciencemadness, so let me dream a little and speculate how one might construct such a copper distillation column:

It would need to be made out of a synthetic graphite column, fortunately graphitic cylinders are commercially sold as segments. There would need to be a vacuum gap between this inner cylinder and the outer wall of the steel column for insulation and the inside of this outer wall would need to be mirrored to reflect back the immense radiation emitted at those temperatures. The column would need to be REALLY tall and would have to contain some kind of packing made out of graphite too on the inside. You could electrically heat the boiler which holds a pool of molten copper metal, ?inductively?, that's not too much of a problem I would guess, and your condenser at the top could simply be a portion that doesn't have the radiation shielding, so would cool by radiative loses. You would simply have a water coil some short distance away that is blackened. Molten copper doesn't 'wet' graphite, instead it would just bead on it, so your graphite packing on the inside wouldn't work just like that. Fortunately some research has been done on this and addition of a small amount of chromium to the copper remedies this because a thin layer of chromium carbides forms on the surface of the graphite and then copper fully wets the graphite at high temperatures.

I have spent some time trying to think out a clever way that copper could be enriched on a very small scale at home by other means. Solvent extraction methods are too much of a schlep.

One possibility I thought of was something similar to an electrophoresis type device. You have copper electrodes immersed at the ends of a rectangular horizontal tray filled with some stationary phase, let's say silica gel, but there may be better things for metal ions. Also, you soak the whole thing in an acidic electrolyte, say H2SO4(dil.).

Now you automate the following process that needs to happen repeatedly: First, at the copper anode the copper metal is oxidised at the one side forming copper sulfate.

Cu => Cu(2+) + 2e-

Which is attracted to the opposite cathode electrode on the far side of the tray, except getting there is not so easy as the copper ions repeatedly adsorb and desorb on the stationary phase.

As this copper makes it's way along the length of the tray, the front zone will enrich in the lighter isotope slightly because of the kinetic isotopic effect, i.e. the copper ions constantly have to hop on then hop off between the stationary phase and the electrolyte and the lighter isotope can do this slightly faster than the heavier one.

Ideally if your tray is long enough, you might be lucky and have your band actually break up into two bands, one being copper sulfate of the one isotope and the other, but somehow I doubt this would happen unless your tray was ridiculously long, I would guess that it would simple be enriching somewhat between the front and back of one band.

Anyhow, on the other side, when the band arrives, you electrodeposit the copper onto your electrode but using two immersed electrodes, the one is made negative for the first half of the arriving band and another for the second half. That way the one has a layer of enriched lighter isotope and the other the heavier one. When you reverse this, you start by oxidising the lighter copper electrode first and then the heavier one so that you propogate this enrichment for the next cycle where it enriches more.

Do this backwards and forwards several times and you should have major enrichment!

Ok there's lots of other things I'd like to say about this, but let the discussion develop a little first.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by deltaH]




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deltaH
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 01:22


Another coincidence that makes this attractive for copper is this:

If you're trading in isotopic copper bullion, one thing you would probably be worried about would be counterfeiting, after all, ordinary copper would be almost indistinguishable by conventional means. Off course one could do mass spectrocopy, but that's a bit of an expensive instrument!

BUT

I was thinking if there was a somewhat simpler way to non-destructively test such a bullion coin for example by simply putting it between a coil.

I believe there is, you could use NMR. Now I DON't mean in the same way as chemists use it to determine structure, that's an insanely sensitive version that uses extreme magnetic fields to induce degeneracy in the signals and get structural info out of it.

What I'm talking about is the very simple version, simple locking on and measuring the signal from the nuclear resonance for each isotope.

In theory, though I know very little about electronics, could one not do this with a coil around your sample and some RF circuitry and signal processing.

As I understand it, one could use the earth's natural magnetic field for this purpose if you just want to measure a signal for each isotopes resonance?

The fortunate coincidence is that both isotopes of copper are NMR active and have a large relative receptivity (10E-2)



This is an image of copper bullion from www.fullmetalbullion.com , I think it's darn pretty, now imagine an atomic symbol motif and .99 <sup>63</sup>Cu or .99 <sup>65</sup>Cu stamped on it!

I personally think copper is prettier than gold!

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by deltaH]

[Edited on 10.10.13 by bfesser]

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by deltaH]




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bismuthate
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:16


;)deltaH you have exactly 100 posts.
this is nice in theory, but how will you achieve teperatures nescesary?
Also you need to make people believe that copper is more valuble than gold.
Try osmium bullions it's pretty, useful and rare.
I think that people on this forum would buy isotopic bullions of copper if you made them.
If this does work then NMR could find false bullions.




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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:22


Quote: Originally posted by crazyboy  
The wiki article states

Quote:

Isotopes of Carbon, Oxygen, and Nitrogen can be purified by chilling these gases or compounds nearly to their liquification temperature in very tall columns (200 to 700 feet tall—70 to 200 meters). The heavier isotopes sink and the lighter isotopes rise, where they are easily collected. The process was developed in the late 1960s by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.[8] This process is also called "cryogenic distillation".


Could this be applied to metals? Molten potassium for example?


see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaseous_diffusion
they purify uranium (which is a metal) to weapons grade by first concerting it to UF6 which has a low BP. the same should be possible with other metals




all above information is intellectual property of Pyro. :D
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deltaH
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:25


@Pyro I stand to be corrected, but I don't know any simple volatile compounds for copper or silver?



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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:27


URANIUM BULLIONS!
just kidding athough uranium will be very valuable soon so having some is a good idea.




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deltaH
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:37


Quote:
;)deltaH you have exactly 100 posts.
this is nice in theory, but how will you achieve teperatures nescesary?
Also you need to make people believe that copper is more valuble than gold.
Try osmium bullions it's pretty, useful and rare.
I think that people on this forum would buy isotopic bullions of copper if you made them.
If this does work then NMR could find false bullions.
thanks @bismuthate, I don't think there would be a big problem in reaching those temperature by inductive heating, so long as the system is well insulated and at such temperatures radiation insulation (mirroring) becomes extremely important. It's more a problem of working with expensive materials such as synthetic graphite.

But I'm keen to try to play with other ways of doing this in the amateur context, for example the electrophoresis type method. Granted, I could probably only make milligram amounts this way, but...

As for convincing people... it all starts with one :)




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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:44


I'm convinced. I think you should sell samples to raise money for your idea.



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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:44


May different isotopes have different densities?
deltaH, from the first day on this forum you propose (harvest ? :O ) different ideas, will you show us the outcome of any ?
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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 03:56


papaya these are hard and long lasting projects let's give him a break before we start judging. He'll probaly have results sooner or later.



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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 04:48


Quote: Originally posted by deltaH  

Then using isotopic separation techniques, I propose to separate and enrich these from each other to make isotopically pure bullion bars that would sell for much much higher prices, probably comparable to high value precious metals like gold.



The market for isotopically pure copper or silver must be really small. I mean, who really needs that except for a few researchers? So if you're thinking really small scale and using 'free' energy (there's no such thing of course) then maybe, just maybe...




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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 05:18


@papaya, since I've come on this site, I've also published two ideas that have been demonstrated by me, i mean have already been experimented on and seems to work. The first was for cyanurate fire fighting plaster, the second for my choline soap.

However, nobody wrote anything there, that's fine, probably too boring, but don't tell me I didn't also do experimentation.

These ideas are newer or harder to begin experimenting with, but they are about to get underway, i'm just waiting on some things, but there should be no reason to not start discussing them.





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[*] posted on 10-10-2013 at 06:00


I'll third the opinions/questions of bfesser and blogfast, which have yet to be addressed:
What is the purpose of isotopically pure copper and silver? Who would use it? Why would it be "much much" more valuable than the un-enriched metal? Also, how is copper and silver mining less inherently environmentally damaging than gold mining?

Sure it's interesting from a mad science perspective, but beyond being a scientific curiosity and for some niche researchers I don't see this really going anywhere.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by MrHomeScientist]
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