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You are probably aware of that certain radioactive things glow, usually a soft green. But is there any way to add compounds or what have you to achieve a different color, say, orange?

I know Cherenkov radiation in water is a soft blue, but that's a product of the reactor rather than the fuel itself.

I can't even find anything on google images that show radioluminescence in colors other than green. This is specifically for a nuclear fuel, and different formulae are marked as different colors. Perhaps I'll ask about the fuel itself separately.

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  • $\begingroup$ It would be purely down to the chemistry of the radioactive substance in question; for instance, when you burn specific metals under a flame, they release a unique spectrum of colour. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2016 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ An addendum to the answers that are already in place: the familiar green glow we associate with radiation isn't actually a product of the radioactive material. Rather, it's emitted by other materials, called phosphors, which emit light in the presence of radiation. Changing the color of radioluminescence is a matter of changing the phosphor, not changing the radiation source, which is generally chosen based on health and practical reasons, with tritium being the most common in the modern day. $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Oct 11, 2016 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Please consider eventually accepting one of the answers or at least comment on answers to communicate why you don't want to accept them. $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Nov 9, 2017 at 17:12

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According to Wikipedia, Yes

Apparently Tritium is often used to illuminate things, alas it's got a half-life of only 12.32 years it is often deemed enough for common applications

Various preparations of the phosphor compound can be used to produce different colors of light. Some of the colors that have been manufactured in addition to the common phosphors are green, red, blue, yellow, purple, orange, and white.

Wikipedia: Tritium Illumination

Tritium Keychains

Tritium Watch Face

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Certainly. I’ve even seen a product in different colors, powered by tritium.

At the very least, you can use common florescent pigments (available in many glo-colors) and mix with UV-producing radioluminescence material, if you can’t get the color you want to work “directly”.

But the above Wikipedia link states

Various preparations of the phosphor compound can be used to produce different colors of light. Some of the colors that have been manufactured in addition to the common phosphors are green, red, blue, yellow, purple, orange, and white.

And here they are for sale showing relative brightness of each color.

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  • $\begingroup$ Arrrrgh you've been quicker than me $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Oct 11, 2016 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Because I answered from memory and didn’t look up the products. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Oct 11, 2016 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, the thing that drives the phosphors is beta particles (electrons) emitted by the tritium, rather than UV. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium and traser.com/en-gb/h3-illumination-tech.html $\endgroup$
    – JerryTheC
    Oct 11, 2016 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ Why are they not more popular, are they much more expensive? $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Oct 11, 2016 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ You can see prices on ebay, Amazon, etc. for bare vials and fancy holders for them. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Oct 11, 2016 at 15:52
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Cherenkov Radiation is commonly referred to as a sort of "optical sonic boom". Basically, you have high-energy particles moving faster than the speed of light through a medium. Depending on what the medium is, you'll get a different color of light. Blue is seen as the "traditional" color because most reactors use water for a moderator/coolant. If you used a different medium, you would have a different color. Since the color is a result of the medium, not the fuel, you would have the same color of glow for every type of fuel, assuming you're using them all in the same device. The easiest way to mark the fuel would be to coat the exterior of the fuel rods with a phosphor that emits the given color when hit with the relevant gammas. Another note: if the fuel is powering a reactor, you probably can't see the fuel meat itself, only whatever cladding it has, so you could just have the different mixes clad with different materials or have the fuel rods painted. -sol

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  • $\begingroup$ Unlike fluorescence or emission spectra that have characteristic spectral peaks, Cherenkov radiation is continuous. Around the visible spectrum, the relative intensity per unit frequency is approximately proportional to the frequency. That is, higher frequencies (shorter wavelengths) are more intense in Cherenkov radiation. This is why visible Cherenkov radiation is observed to be brilliant blue. From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherenkov_radiation#Characteristics $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 16, 2020 at 4:02

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