China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC), part of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), has for the first time achieved independent and mass production of germanium (Ge) isotopes and has delivered the isotopes to Tsinghua University. The isotopes are expected to be used at the China Jinping Underground Laboratory (CJPL), which undertakes research on dark matter and nuclear astrophysics. The laboratory is 2,400 metres underground.

The development and mass production of germanium isotopes by CNNC will guarantee the domestic supply of the project's key materials, will support expansion of research at the underground laboratory, and lay a solid foundation for the use of germanium isotopes in the manufacturing of semiconductors and infrared fluoroscopic imaging, breaking the foreign monopoly in the field, CNNC said. Tsinghua University has placed a high-purity germanium detector in the underground laboratory which was made of very high purity germanium crystal material. When dark matter hits it a very small amount of energy can be detected.

At the end of August 2022, the germanium isotope material produced by the company was autonomized and supplied in bulk, and was successfully delivered to the University of Tsinghua. The successful delivery of the project products marked the China Nuclear Group's breakthrough of foreign monopolies, the first time to achieve mass production of germanium-rich isotope materials and to achieve international leadership in this type of material field. Previously China depended on foreign suppliers for germanium isotopes.

The successful research and development and batch production of the Chinese Nuclear Group in the field of germanium isotopes completely solve the nationalised supply of key materials for the project, and provide strong protection for the further expansion of the scale and depth of deep experimental research. It also provides follow-up germanium isotopes in electronic semiconductors, infrared perspective and other fields to broaden applications and lay a solid foundation.

The development of various types of stable isotope products is a key business area for the China Nuclear Group (CNG), which by completed development of the germanium isotope in four months using integrated resources of various scientific research institutes and production units. High-quality high-purity germanium isotope products are now mass produced at the Cangzhou Industrial Park. CGN is now also looking to export the product.

Image: The CNNC has achieved independent and mass production of germanium (courtesy of CNNC)