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Accurate measurement of radioactive thoron possible at last
Date:3/7/2011

metrologists speak of a primary standard like the one that already exists for Rn-222, was considered impossible for a long time, because thoron has a relatively short half-life of only 55 seconds. The PTB team finally had a brilliant idea:

The core of the primary standard is a test container which is filled with a defined amount of thoron. In view of the short half-life, a closed container, such as for radon, did not come into question, as the activity would quickly decay in that, in a short time. For this reason the scientists developed a circuit system that constantly introduces newly produced thoron with a high flow air stream and keeps the activity in the container constant.

The production and the accurate measurement of the activity which was fed in, was a metrological challenge. It was possible through a novel measuring arrangement called the thoron emanation measuring facility (TEM). The activity thereby comes from a thorium (Th-228) preparation which continually produces thoron. A constant, strong air stream transports the thoron into the test container. The tough nut that had to be cracked was: how much thoron is transported away and how much stays in the source? The PTB team finally succeeded in determining this ratio to one tenth of a per cent exactly.

Parallel to operating the TEM, the measuring instrument to be calibrated can be connected to the test container. As a rule, all the connected devices show more or less different results. You might even have a factor of 4! The manufacturers then receive a correction factor from PTB with which they have to multiply the measurement result to get to the correct result.

As more and more geological and epidemiological studies in Asia, Europe and Latin America are focussed on thoron (to which little attention had been paid to date), the newly set up measuring arrangement at PTB is constantly fully booked by international customers.


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Contact: Dr. Anntette Roettger
annette.roettger@ptb.de
49-531-592-6130
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Source:Eurekalert

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