Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Aqueous-organic partition coefficients for Rn-222 and their application to Radon analysis by liquid scintillation methods

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  • A method is described for determining the partition coefficient, K, for radon gas distributed between an aqueous phase and an organic solvent. The method uses sequential extractions of radon into equal volume aliquots of organic solvent. The radon-laden organic liquid is then counted on a liquid scintillation analyzer with alpha-beta separation. The high quench resistance and counting efficiency of alpha particles by liquid scintillation methods are ideal for counting a variety of aromatic, aliphatic, and cyclic organic solvent and scintillation cocktail mixtures. Accurate knowledge of the instrument counting efficiency, quench, and standard solution activity are not required. Replicate measurements of the aqueous-organic radon partition coefficient on benzene, toluene, o-xylene, n-hexane, and cyclohexane showed excellent agreement with theoretical radon partition coefficients derived from Ostwald solubility coefficients. The method was also used to determine the radon partition coefficient for several commercial liquid scintillation solutions. Though performed on lighter-than-water solvents, the method is potentially amendable to solvents more dense than water. Knowledge of radon partitioning plays a significant role in the standard liquid scintillation counting method for analyzing radon in aqueous samples. Radon is unique in that it distributes itself between the aqueous, cocktail and gas phases within an LSC vial. With too little cocktail, the vial headspace becomes a significant radon sink. More cocktail minimizes radon loss to the vial headspace, but with the potential for higher instrument background. The effect of cocktail volume on method performance when analyzing radon in 5.0 mL aqueous samples was investigated by preparing samples having from 5.0 to 15.0 mL of scintillation cocktail floating atop of 5.0 mL of standard solution. As predicted, radon partitioning played a direct role in the measured counting efficiency. In all cases, analyzing 5.0 mL of aqueous sample using 5.0 mL of scintillation cocktail proved to be the optimum analysis protocol.
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