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Name, symbol Krypton,85Kr
Neutrons 49
Protons 36
Nuclide data
Half-life 10.756 years
Isotope mass 84.9125273(21) u
Spin 9/2+
Decay mode Decay energy
Beta decay 0.687 MeV
fission products
Q *
βγ *
155Eu 4.76 0.0803 252 βγ
85Kr 10.76 0.2180 687 βγ
113mCd 14.1 0.0008 316 β
90Sr 28.9 4.505 2826 β
137Cs 30.23 6.337 1176 βγ
121mSn 43.9 0.00005 390 βγ
151Sm 96.6 0.5314 77 β

Krypton 85 (85Kr) is a radioisotope of krypton.

It has a half-life of 10.756 years and a maximum decay energy of 687 keV. It decays into stable, non-radioactive rubidium-85. Its most common decay (99.57%) is by beta particle emission with maximum energy of 687 keV and an average energy of 251 keV. The second most common (0.43%) is by beta particle emission (maximum energy of 173 keV) followed by gamma ray emission (energy of 514 keV).[1][2]

In terms of radiotoxicity, 440 Bq of Kr-85 is equivalent to 1 Bq of radon-222, without considering the rest of the radon decay chain.

Other decay modes have very small probabilities and emit less energetic gammas.[3] The only other long-lived radioisotope of krypton is krypton-81 with a 210,000 year half-life; others have half-lives of less than two days.

Krypton-85 is produced in small quantities by the interaction of cosmic rays with the stable krypton-84 (which is present in concentrations of about 1 cm3 per cubic meter[clarification needed]). However, since the mid-1940s, much larger quantities have been artificially produced as a product of nuclear fission. When uranium-235, or another fissile nucleus fissions, it usually splits into two large fragments (fission products) with mass numbers of 90–140, and two or three neutrons. About three atoms of krypton-85 are produced for every 1000 fissions (i.e. it has a fission yield of 0.3%).[4] This is only about 20% of the total fission product of mass 85, as most decay from a short-lived excited state of 85Kr directly to 85Rb without passing through the longer-lived nuclear isomer.

About 5 megacuries (180 PBq) of the isotope was released into the atmosphere as a result of nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and the end of atmospheric testing in 1962. The 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant released about 50 kilocuries (1,800 TBq) of Kr-85 into the atmosphere[4] and the Chernobyl accident released about 5 megacuries (180 PBq).[5] The atmospheric concentration of krypton-85 peaked in around 1970, when it reached ca. 10 pCi/m3 (approximately 0.4 Bq/m3). Since then the cessation of atmospheric weapons tests and the reduced production of plutonium has, because of the short half-life of the isotope, led to a sharp reduction in the atmospheric concentration, according to the Human Health Fact Sheet.

For wide-area atmospheric monitoring, krypton-85 is the best indicator for clandestine plutonium separations.[6]

A large nuclear power plant produces about 300 kilocuries (11,000 TBq) of the isotope per year, most or all retained in the spent nuclear fuel rods. Nuclear reprocessing currently releases Kr-85 to the atmosphere when the spent fuel is dissolved. It would also be possible to capture and store it as nuclear waste or for use.

Uses in industry[edit]

It is used in arc discharge lamps commonly used in the entertainment industry for large HMI film lights as well as High Intensity Discharge lamps.[7][8][9][10][11] The existence of Kr-85 in discharge tube of the lamps can make the lamps easy to ignite.[8]

The sealed spark gap assemblies contained in ignition excitors used in some older turbine/jet engines contain a very small amount of krypton-85 in order to obtain consistent ionization levels and uniform operation. The amount of radiation from the average gap is approximately the same as that of a radium-dial wrist watch but should be handled carefully.

Krypton-85 was used in cold-cathode voltage regulator electron tubes, such as the type 5651.[12]

Krypton-85 is used to inspect aircraft components for small defects. Krypton-85 is allowed to penetrate small cracks, and then its presence is detected by autoradiography. The method is called "krypton gas penetrant imaging". The gas penetrates smaller openings than the liquids used in dye penetrant inspection and fluorescent penetrant inspection.[13]

Krypton-85 is used to test for leaks in semiconductors (MIL-STD-883H) and piping. Krypton-85 is used to ionizing of spark gap inlet gases for breakdown voltage. Krypton-85 is used in neutralization of electrostatically charged aerosols from nebulization, combustion, or powder dispersion.

Krypton-85 is also used to measure extruded film or coating weight during online production.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pinellas Plant – Occupational Environmental Dose.
  2. ^ Pinellas Plant – Occupational Environmental Dose rev1. Retrieved on 2013-07-25.
  3. ^ Results:3 different decay possibilities were found. H. Sievers, Nuclear Data Sheets 62,271 (1991)
  4. ^ a b "Human Health Fact Sheet: Krypton" (PDF). Argonne National Laboratory. August 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  5. ^ Chernobyl Disaster. (1986-04-26). Retrieved on 2013-07-25.
  6. ^ Kalinowski, Martin B.; Sartorius, Hartmut; Uhl, Stefan; Weiss, Wolfgang (2004), "Conclusions on plutonium separation from atmospheric krypton-85 measured at various distances from the Karlsruhe reprocessing plant", Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 73 (2): 203–22, doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2003.09.002, PMID 15023448 
  7. ^ Krypton-85 (PDF). (2004-12-30). Retrieved on 2013-07-25.
  8. ^ a b Lamp Types, European Lamp Companies Federation, archived from the original on 2012-11-06, retrieved 2012-11-06 
  9. ^ Ionizing Substances in Lighting Products, European Lamp Companies Federation, 2009, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-06, retrieved 2012-11-06 
  10. ^ NRPB and GRS (2001), Transport of Consumer Goods containing Small Quantities of Radioactive Materials, European Commission, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-06, retrieved 2012-11-06 
  11. ^ Assessment of the Radiological Impact of the Transport and Disposal of Light Bulbs Containing Tritium, Krypton-85 and Radioisotopes of Thorium, Health Protection Agency, 2011, archived from the original on 2012-11-06, retrieved 2012-11-06 
  12. ^ 5651 Sylvania Voltage Regulator Stabilizer Electron Tube. (2013-05-15). Retrieved on 2013-07-25.
  13. ^ Glatz, Joseph. Krypton Gas Penetrant Imaging – A Valuable Tool for Ensuring Structural Integrity in Aircraft Engine Components. American Society for Nondestructive Testing