Sample preparation for quantitation of tritium by accelerator mass spectrometry. Academic Article uri icon


  • The capability to prepare samples accurately and reproducibly for analysis of tritium (3H) content by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) greatly facilitates isotopic tracer studies in which attomole levels of 3H can be measured in milligram-sized samples. A method has been developed to convert the hydrogen of organic samples to a solid, titanium hydride, which can be analyzed by AMS. Using a two-step process, the sample is first oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. In the second step, the water is transferred within a heated manifold into a quartz tube, reduced to hydrogen gas using zinc, and reacted with titanium powder. The 3H/1H ratio of the titanium hydride is measured by AMS and normalized to standards whose ratios were determined by decay counting to calculate the amount of 3H in the original sample. Water, organic compounds, and biological samples with 3H activities measured by liquid scintillation counting were utilized to develop and validate the method. The 3H/1H ratios were quantified in samples that spanned 5 orders of magnitude, from 10(-10) to 10(-15), with a detection limit of 3.0 x 10(-15), which is equivalent to 0.02 dpm tritium/mg of material. Samples smaller than 2 mg were analyzed following addition of 2 mg of a tritium-free-hydrogen carrier. Preparation of organic standards containing both 14C and 3H in 2-mg organic samples demonstrated that this sample preparation methodology can also be applied to quantify both of these isotopes from a single sample.

publication date

  • December 15, 2002