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How does a mass spectrometer separate isotopes?


10/18/99

Vocabulary
element*
isotope*
isotopic abundance*
mass spectrometer*
This schematic mass spectrometer separates isotopes (atoms of the same element with different masses). It is similar to a prototype spectrometer built by F. W. Aston in 1911. Modern mass spectrometers are more complex, but they still operate on the same general principles as Aston's instruments.

The separation is based on the fact that magnetic fields bend the trajectories of light ions more than heavy ones of equal charge. Point to different parts of the instrument to learn more about the separation process.

Author: Fred Senese senese@antoine.frostburg.edu



General Chemistry Online! How does a mass spectrometer separate isotopes?

Copyright © 1997-2010 by Fred Senese
Comments & questions to fsenese@frostburg.edu
Last Revised 02/15/10.URL: http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/atoms/faq/how-does-mass-spec-work.shtml