A calutron is a mass spectrometer used for separating the isotopes of uranium. It was developed by Ernest O. Lawrence during the Manhattan Project and was similar to the cyclotron invented by Lawrence. Its name is a concatenation of Cal. U.-tron, in tribute to the University of California, Lawrence's institution and the contractor of the Los Alamos laboratory. They implemented industrial scale uranium enrichment at the Oak Ridge Y-12 plant established during the war and provided much of the uranium used for the "Little Boy" nuclear weapon, which was dropped onto Hiroshima in 1945. In a mass spectrometer, a vaporized sample is bombarded with high energy electrons, which cause the sample components to become positively charged ions. They are then accelerated and subsequently deflected by magnetic fields, ultimately colliding with a plate and producing a measurable electric current. Since the ions of the different isotopes have the same electric charge but different masses, the heavier isotopes are bent less by the magnetic field, causing the beam of particles to separate out into several beams by mass, striking the plate at different locations.
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