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Author: Subject: Isotopic bullion
woelen

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What deltaH describes has been done in the recent past. I have seen isotopically pure copper powder on eBay for research purposes, pick-up only, in Amsterdam, or if it had to be shipped, using special courier service with insurance, no price for shipping specified on eBay. Cost: EUR 500000,- or something like that for 100 gram. This was a few years ago.

[Edited on 10-10-13 by woelen]

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watson.fawkes
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 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 [...]
I'm certain that every seeker of isotopically enriched uranium would take quite an interest at any technique that's workable at an amateur scale that can enrich any reasonably heavy element, even one at half the nuclear mass. Good luck on your new life.
deltaH
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Hi MrHomeScientist

 Quote: What is the purpose of isotopically pure copper and silver?
Monetary... just like gold, except that here the cost is not about rarity but by a built in difficulty to manufacture. The classic example is aluminium metal, before the days when electrorefinining existed, aluminium metal was very costly because it was hard to reduce, but it's oxidized compounds were plentiful.

 Quote: Who would use it?
While stable isotopic chemicals have many practical uses, I can't think of any for copper per say, this is purely for monetary reasons. Yes that idea would take time for people to change over too, but I believe it's a more sustainable form of bullion, which brings us to...

 Quote: Also, how is copper and silver mining less inherently environmentally damaging than gold mining?
Because of rarity, per ton of ore you have to process to get your metal, the amount of copper is much more, this means less waste on energy requirements as well as chemical waste and waste ore afterwards.

Look, it's like print money, it's valuable not because it actually can be used to make fire with or whatever, but because the government has made it very hard to forge and so can control it's supply and assign perceived value to it.

Isotopically enriched copper is very hard to make, so it's rare in that form, even though it's not rare in it's normal form. It cost's me $100000/kg to make it (thumb sucked number), so I am only prepared to sell it to you for$200000/kg and so a trading prices is established for it, since nobody can make it for less than that, and if they improve on the separation, so the price drops a little, but the point is that it will always be high because isotopes are nearly identical and so the separation costs will always be high.

But so long as you make it by sustainable means, you are doing less damage than the equivalent if you were using a system based on gold bullion.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by deltaH]

deltaH
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 Quote: What deltaH describes has been done in the recent past. I have seen isotopically pure copper powder on eBay for research purposes, pick-up only, in Amsterdam, or if it had to be shipped, using special courier service with insurance, no price for shipping specified on eBay. Cost: EUR 500000,- or something like that for 100 gram. This was a few years ago.
Very interesting @woellen! I wonder if it wasn't a scam though. I know there is a stable isotopes company that sells enriched copper, but their prices were absolutely insane, so these ebay versions might be a scam?

deltaH
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Found them again, these guys at Cambridge Isotope Laboratories:

http://www.isotope.com/cil/products/listproducts.cfm?cat_id=...

but it says please inquire for price in the catalogue where copper is listed

woelen

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I did not check its legit status, it might have been a scam, but on the other hand, if you really want to spend half a million of euros, then you do not simply pay to an unknown eBay account. The eBay seller, however, did not want you simply to click the "Buy now" button, but wanted to have personal contact with a potential buyer and have things arranged behind the scenes.

-----------------------------------------

There is one major flaw in the use of isotopically pure elements as currency, with prices depending on the price of energy. One can expect that in the (relatively near, e.g. few tens of years from now) future fusion becomes a main power source and once this is common like we now have electricity plants based on natural gas or charcoal, then the price of energy will drop strongly. In such cases, the price of enriched elements may drop strongly, because the need to use huge amounts of energy is no reason anymore for high prices.

[Edited on 10-10-13 by woelen]

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phlogiston
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The price will not be pegged to energy costs. Rather, the market (demand/supply) will set the price.
(Here's why: if there is insuficient demand, people are not willing to buy it from you at the going price, so you can produce all the scarce material that you want but you'll be left with it. In other words, if it is not profitable to produce it given the production costs, nobody will do so (except for a few mad scientists just for the fun of it).

While you thought about the supply side quite well (it is difficult and costly to make), you should consider the demand as well.

Only a tiny amount is currently needed to cover industrial/scientific needs.

Significant demand will occur only if it becomes accepted as money on a large scale, which would probably require some government to adopt it as its national currency.
I don't think there is much chance of that happening since there don't seem to be any benefits to this currency over traditional precious metals.

I think a stable isotope that is actually very useful in large quantities, like <sup>3</sup>He would have a better chance.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by phlogiston]

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bfesser
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10-10-2013 at 06:46
halogen
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I concede gold is handy in electronics. Even there, demand is relatively small. Compare industrial demand to jewelry itself - it's dwarfed. And there's nothing "beautiful" about gold that isn't beautiful in "worthless" alloys. Except that our culture uses it as a symbol.

[Edited on 10-10-2013 by halogen]
MrHomeScientist
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 Quote: Originally posted by phlogiston The price will not be pegged to energy costs. Rather, the market (demand/supply) will set the price. (Here's why: if there is insuficient demand, people are not willing to buy it from you at the going price, so you can produce all the scarce material that you want but you'll be left with it. In other words, if it is not profitable to produce it given the production costs, nobody will do so (except for a few mad scientists just for the fun of it). ... Significant demand will occur only if it becomes accepted as money on a large scale, which would probably require some government to adopt it as its national currency. I don't think there is much chance of that happening since there don't seem to be any benefits to this currency over traditional precious metals.

That is exactly the point I was trying to make, thanks for wording it better than I could

I tried to come up with a snappy analogy to add to this, but am currently failing at organizing my thoughts. If I come up with something sufficiently clever, I'll add it here
deltaH
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Thanks all for the interesting points, you all have valid points off course. I can but hope that someday people might make the changeover because I believe it to be more sustainable.

Until then, I'm going to have a bit of fun with kitchen 'electrophoresis' if one can even call it that I've often done chromatographic work, so I'm very curious to start playing with the electric version.

I wonder if one just crushes up silica gel kitty litter (we do have the very plain one that has nothing else added), if one could use it as a stationary phase... I can't see why not?

I'll report back on what I see, I'm just very curious if I'm going to be able to even get a band to move across in the first place... baby steps!

bismuthate
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If you want to release this to the public you need to call it something different like "utopian silver" and say it's rare.
It's a shame that the general public can't appreciate the sheer purity like a scientist.

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deltaH
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Actually I might get a 'standard' chromatography set up to work for this... would be easier than messing around with electric fields.

deltaH
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@bismuthate

lol! yeah or tibetan copper lol

phlogiston
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Ah, sorry, I missed your post. Indeed, we agree.

@halogen, the value of gold is probably not justifiable by its immediate usefulness. The difference is that it has had such a long history of being liked for its shininess that it retained this irrational value today.

Good luck trying to induce the same passion for rare isotopes. You need the mental eye of a (mad) scientist to see and appreciate the beauty 'under the hood'. For anyone else, it feels, tastes and looks like regular gold.

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bismuthate
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Tastes? Though there are people who make element collections maybe someone should make an isotope collection.

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deltaH
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So no excuse for being a broke scientist... all you need is 50g copper sulfate, a chromatography column and a hell of a lot of time and effort to run columns lol

I feel a little like Marie and Pierre Curie trying to separate out trace polonium from pitchblend!!! lol

Oh dratz, there I've officially tripped all the NSA alarm bells, we've used uranium, isotopic enrichment and pitchblend in the same thread!

bismuthate
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I don't need to worry my goverment is shut down. Joke's on you

I'm not a liar, I'm just an enthusiastic celebrant of opposite day.
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deltaH
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 Quote: Tastes? Though there are people who make element collections maybe someone should make an isotope collection.
Just do tin and you would have a collection already... TEN stable isotopes!

bismuthate
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I meant pure samples of every iosotope of every element.
Like the ultimate periodic table.

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ElectroWin
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 Quote: Originally posted by woelen Cost: EUR 500000,- or something like that for 100 gram.

there must be techniques available to make this much cheaper. i have a use for dozens of isotopically pure substances, i just dont want to pay that much.

watson.fawkes
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 Quote: Originally posted by ElectroWin there must be techniques available to make this much cheaper.
Why do you think that? Isotopic separation is just plain difficult, requiring expensive equipment that's expensive to run. Not to mention the test equipment to characterize the product is itself expensive (mass spectrometer).

I'd be impressed if an amateur could make 1 g of &#x2060;⁠​⁠13C, and that's a pretty easy target, with ~ 8% mass distinction and a dirt cheap substrate. There's already a huge ratio of doing-nothing over doing-something with deuterium extraction on this board, and you don't even need to invent much to do that. Isotopic separation of anything heavier than deuterium is increasingly expensive.
froot
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Noble metals are are relatively rare, chemically unreactive and have distinct characteristics such as high density. These characteristics appeal to one's perception of value.
Isotopically pure non-noble metals are rare, chemically reactive and are much lighter than noble metals. For me that would make them scientific curiosities more than anything else, and, if I told you that copper bullion bar in front of us was pure Cu^65, how would you know? There are no determining factors between Cu^63 or 65 and a standard piece of copper. You'd rather trade with gold because when you pick up a piece of gold, you'll know it's gold and you won't need to worry about storing it in an inert atmosphere.

Now... If you manage to isotopically separate Pt, you'll have my full attention, both as a curiosity and it's scientific value.

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phlogiston
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Another drawback is that it could be easily destroyed by alloying with naturally occuring metal.
Noble metals can be alloyed too, but they can be recovered again at relatively minor cost.

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deltaH
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@froot
 Quote: ... if I told you that copper bullion bar in front of us was pure Cu^65, how would you know?
To be fair, even gold is routinely counterfeited with tungsten innards. Non destructive testing always requires some kind of a machine and I had pointed out that the nice thing about copper is that both isotopes are NMR active and fairly strongly so, therefore, a simple testing device to non destructively assay such an alloy could in theory be constructed... ?could even be made handheld?. See earth field NMR.
 Quote: You'd rather trade with gold because when you pick up a piece of gold, you'll know it's gold...
Hope you've never bought 'gold' from ebay
 Quote: ...storing it in an inert atmosphere.
Presumably you won't leave a gold bar lying on your fireplace mantle top, similarly you would probably keep any small bullion bar at least in a plastic pouch or a small padded box... i'm pretty sure copper would do just fine in such a situation, would dull slightly, but so what, besides, you could give it a shine one in ten years surely
 Quote: Now... If you manage to isotopically separate Pt, you'll have my full attention, both as a curiosity and it's scientific value.
I think your idea for platinum is great and I agree with you, there is a consumer perceived value attached to extreme inertness and very high density. Platinum has quiet a few isotopes but there are three that occur in sufficient abundance to be of interest: <sup>194</sup>Pt@33%, <sup>195</sup>Pt@34% and <sup>196</sup>Pt@25%, however, as watson.fawkes mentioned, the higher in atomic mass you go, the harder to separate. You're now getting into the realm of equivalent isotopic separation difficulty to that of uranium... in fact, if you want to enrich platinum, you would probably have to do it with hot platinum hexafluoride gas in centrifuges and my gosh... can you imagine the corrosion problems with hot PtF6 gas!

deltaH
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@electrowin
 Quote: ...there must be techniques available to make this much cheaper.
I still think the cheapest way to do this is a old school liquid chromatographic column because you can get a large number of theoretical stages with such a setup... however, I'm under no illusions that you wouldn't need to repeat this many many times over to get appreciable enrichment, but I don't see why it's not plausible or not within the reach of the amateur chemist... albeit one that has a lot of time on his hands.