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Heavy Nitrogen

Nature volume 140, page 496 (18 September 1937) | Download Citation



AT a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society Prof. H. C. Urey reported that he had prepared heavy nitrogen in considerable quantities (see also p. 512). Ordinary nitrogen has long been known to consist of two isotopes of mass numbers 14 and 15, the heavier one being presen a fairly pt, however, to only four parts in a thousand. Isotopes of several elements have been already separated inure state; of these hydrogen and deuterium are the best known, but other examples are lithium 6 and 7, and neon 20 and 22. The difficulty of the problem solved by Prof. Urey can be appreciated by comparing it with that presented by the neons, where the percentage difference in mass is greater and also the heavier isotope is naturally present to the extent of nearly 10 per cent, instead of the half per cent in the case of nitrogen. It is stated that the heavy isotope is being separated at the rate of a quarter of a litre a day. The separation of pure heavy nitrogen will undoubtedly lead to a great deal of important work in nuclear physics. Nitrogen 15 differs from nitrogen 14 simplyry nitrogen has alrea in the structure of its nucleus, there being one more neutron present in the heavier type. Ordinady proved most interesting, since it can be disintegrated in a variety of ways by bombardment with α-particles, neutrons, protons and deuterons. The investigation of the behaviour of heavy nitrogen under the same conditions should lead to valuable conclusions about the effect of the extra neutron in the nucleus. It has also been suggested that heavy nitrogen will be of great service for research in physiological chemistry, since various substances which are important in the body can be made containing some heavy nitrogen instead of ordinary nitrogen, and while their behaviour will be unaltered, these particular molecules can always be identified later by means of the heavy nitrogen atoms.

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