The chemical inhomogeneity of nuclear waste makes chemical separations difficult, while the correlation between radioactivity and nuclear mass makes mass-based separation, and in particular plasma-based separation, an attractive alternative. Here, we examine a particular class of plasma mass filters, namely filters in which (a) species of different masses are collected along magnetic field lines at opposite ends of an open-field-line plasma device and (b) gyro-drift effects are important for the separation process. Using an idealized cylindrical model, we derive a set of dimensionless parameters which provide minimum necessary conditions for an effective mass filter function in the presence of ion-ion and ion-neutral collisions. Through simulations of the constant-density profile, turbulence-free devices, we find that these parameters accurately describe the mass filter performance in more general magnetic geometries. We then use these parameters to study the design and upgrade of current experiments, as well as to derive general scalings for the throughput of production mass filters. Importantly, we find that ion temperatures above 3 eV and magnetic fields above 104 G are critical to ensure a feasible mass filter function when operating at an ion density of 1013cm-3.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics