Low Radioactivity Argon Gas for Radiation Detectors

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 15-3088-1 & 15-3100-1

Radiation detectors and dark matter research utilizes non-radioactive isotopes of argon gas, since radioactivity impacts the effectiveness of such detectors. A quality assurance method is clearly needed for the industrial and research use of low radioactivity argon gas. However, measuring the argon radioactivity is a time-consuming process (weeks-months), since the half-life of radioactive ³⁹Ar is centuries long. Therefore, this method is not suitable for the large production of low radioactivity underground argon, and creates difficulties in time-sensitive research.


Researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Physics have developed novel real-time methods to determine if underground argon has been contaminated with radioactive isotopes. It can be used to determine, in situ, if argon extracted from underground sources has been contaminated with atmospheric radioactive argon. This method uses commercially available equipment, and requires minimal calibration. By analyzing the ratio of the most prevalent isotope, ⁴⁰Ar, with the second most prevalent isotope, ³⁶Ar, contamination can be determined. Gas companies can use this method to determine the quality of the final product, such as the degree of contamination, and identify atmospheric radioactive argon infiltration during production and purification. End users can use this method to test the quality of argon gas before each use. At present, this is the only method for the quality control of low radioactivity underground argon production. It has the potential of becoming the standard by which all low radioactivity underground argon quality is measured.



•       Quality control of low radioactivity Argon gas

•       Dark matter research

•       Radiation detectors

•       Radiometric dating

•       National security/neutron detectors



•       Real time measurement

•       Utilize commercially available equipment


The Inventor


Henning Back, Ph.D.

Dr. Henning O. Back was an Associate Research Scholar in the Department of Physics at Princeton University, and is currently a Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His research revolves primarily around the technological aspects of low-level radiation detector development, including dark matter detection methods. In recent years this has included identifying low-radioactivity noble gas sources, and developing techniques for their extraction and purification.


Intellectual Property & Development status

US Patent # 10,126,280

Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.




Chris Wright

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

• (609) 258-6762• cw20@princeton.edu




Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Chris Wright
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Henning Back
natural gas