IntroductionMany years of experience in handling tritium gases
RC TRITEC started tritium labelling of organic compounds in glass vacuum lines in the late fifties. Faced with the risks of tritium leakage, sticking stopcocks, breaking glass, etc. associated with glass manifolds, we decided to develop and produce tritiation manifold systems specifically designed to make tritium labelling as simple and safe as possible.
With more than 60 years of practical labelling experience and steady cooperation with leading experts in tritium labelling, we have continuously improved our tritiation systems.
Nowadays, the basic concept of high safety combined with Swiss quality has become a well-approved standard in isotope laboratories all over the world.
What is Tritium?
To better understand the the safe handling of tritium, some of its properties must be considered: -
- Tritium is a very soft beta-emitter with a particle of Emax= 18.6 keV and Eav= 5.7keV. The maximum range is 6 mm in air and a few micrometers in condensed matter with a density of 1 g/cm3. This means that the body cannot be harmed by externally-located tritium.
- The decay product is the non-radioactive noble gas He-3.
- Tritium is a very mobile gas which diffuses through most materials.
- Tritium gas (T2) itself is hardly absorbed by the body and is far less hazardous than HTO (tritiated water).
- HTO, the oxidized form of tritium, is easily absorbed into the body by inhalation or uptake through the skin. It is in equilibrium with the body water and it is excreted along with it. The biological half-life of HTO in the human body is about 10 days. The excretion is accelerated by additional drinking.
- Tritium dosimetry is easily performed by liquid scintillation counting of urine samples.
Tritium Handling Systems
Our Tritium Manifold Systems are all stainless steel vacuum lines which are leak tested down to less than 10-9 mbar l/s. The tritium is stored on uranium beds in form of uranium tritide UT3 which has a T2 partial pressure of less than 10-4 mbar at room temperature. The diffusion or release risk of tritium during storage is reduced to a minimum because there is almost no free tritium. When fresh tritium devoid of the decay product helium-3 is needed, heating and subsequent cooling of the furnance allows the helium to be discharged from the storage bed into the vacuum line for removal. HTO is not formed in the manifold because no contact between oxygen and tritium occurs. After use, excess tritium is easily reabsorbed onto the uranium bed. Releases to the stack are reduced to an absolute minimum.