Analytical Services

Services and Conditions

The Tritium Laboratory provides the following services:

Discussion on sample quality, sampling techniques, advice to submitters regarding needs and measurement options, and available pertinent reprints, etc. are furnished free.

Upon receiving samples for analysis, the Tritium Lab will:

  1. Acknowledge receipt, if client requests.

  2. Check inventory of the bottles, syringes or ampoules received against a packing list, if supplied. Notify submitter by phone if discrepancy found.

  3. Prepare and measure each sample to meet specifications. Unless specifically instructed by the client we will start with no more than one third of the furnished amount of water if a tritium analysis is being performed. This will allow for loss of one run and still be enough for duplicate tritium runs, if needed. A CFC analysis requires that the full amount of water in the syringe or ampoule be analyzed. The client may want to take two separate samples from each source so that there is a backup in case one is lost during analytical processing. The client will not be charged if the CFC sample is lost during analytical processing and a second sample from the same source is not available.

  4. Report preliminary results as soon as available, upon phone inquiry by submitter.

  5. Issue Data Release with final results. For timing see Description of Procedures and Standards, Section F, Update.

  6. Issue an invoice.

  7. Save remainder of tritium samples for 3 months. If samples or sample shipping container are to be returned, we will do so using the original container and under one of the following conditions: (1) client sends prepaid shipping labels or (2) client requests pickup by UPS (known as a “call slip”).

  8. The Tritium Laboratory will make the best possible effort to deliver correct results. However, since these techniques are on the very fringe of what is technically possible, the University of Miami cannot assume any legal or other responsibility for erroneous results. If submitter can provide a justified reason for suspecting a bad result, we will re-measure such a sample at our cost if the sample quantity remaining with us allows.


  1. Purchase order must be received before work starts. Please inform us when shipping samples so the arrival can be expected.

  2. Contract

    Due to the increased amount of administrative and legal input needed for a contract, such arrangement may carry a substantial surcharge, the size of which (minimum of 25 %) will depend upon the quantity of administrative and legal work required of the University. Any contract must include, unchanged, the technical and procedural specifications set in this Price Schedule. The University will not accept any commitments to replace or add to the ones stated in this Price Schedule. The work is a best effort. Thus, a contract would not change any of the conditions set forth in this Price Schedule.

Technical Conditions for Acceptance of Tritium Samples

The machinery of the Tritium Laboratory is designed for operation on only extremely low-level tritium water samples and is, therefore, very vulnerable to samples with unexpectedly high tritium activity. It should be remembered that our minimum detection level is below 0.1 TU, i.e. < 0.7 dpm kg-1 H2O! Current and past decade rains have tritium levels between 1.5 TU (tropics) and about 20 TU. There are large temporal and geographical variations.

  1. Samples treated by full electrolytic enrichment (I.A.2), and expected to be above 30 TU (0.1 pCi mL-1), are treated differently than those close to 0 TU. In order to preserve optimal accuracy, some preliminary information is desirable on these samples. Submitters of samples are therefore strongly advised to contact the laboratory in order that proper precautions may be taken. Uncontaminated rainwater for the last decade should be well below 30 TU.

  2. For samples with expected activity above 1000 TU (3 pCi mL-1) we must be given clear notice. Such “hot” samples would originate from the vicinity of nuclear installations. Direct gas counting (I.A.l) can accept samples up to 10,000 TU (32 pCi mL-1), but such samples could easily be measured in a commercial-type liquid scintillation system and should not be sent to us.

    NOTE: The submitter of a “hot” sample must bear any cost for loss of analytical capability due to the carry-over of tritium from the submitter's samples to other samples in our operation.

    Chemically contaminated samples, in general, cannot be treated by electrolysis. Smaller amounts of non-volatile salts like sodium chloride are allowable, as are low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide. These contaminants are removed by distillation in oxygen atmosphere and/or by addition of potassium permanganate. Not allowed are, in particular, organic matter, like light oils, alcohols, phenols, and volatile inorganic like arsenic compounds. Such chemicals will distill with the water and cause extensive damage to electrolysis and counting equipment. We reserve the right to refuse processing any samples that we judge to be too contaminated or ‘dirty’ to run through our system. It is our experience that leachates from ‘landfills‘ are frequently chemically contaminated, and also often have very high TU-values (>1000 TU), probably from medical waste and discarded watches with luminescent paint. However, in many cases we can perform Direct runs (see I.A.1) on such samples.

  3. For his/her own benefit, a potential submitter is advised to contact the laboratory regarding procedures for field sampling and storage of ultra-low-level samples to avoid contamination in the field or during transport. In particular, a cloud of tritium water vapor surrounds a wristwatch with a luminescent dial! See the section Advice on Sampling.