|Isotope mass||84.9125273(21) u|
|Excess energy||−81480.267 keV|
|Binding energy||8698.562 keV|
|Decay mode||Decay energy (MeV)|
|Isotopes of krypton |
Complete table of nuclides
Krypton-85 has a half-life of 10.756 years and a maximum decay energy of 687 keV. It decays into stable 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 decay (0.43%) is by beta particle emission (maximum energy of 173 keV) followed by gamma ray emission (energy of 514 keV). Other decay modes have very small probabilities and emit less energetic gamma rays. Krypton-85 is mostly synthetic, though it is produced naturally in trace quantities by cosmic ray spallation.
Presence in Earth atmosphere
Krypton-85 is produced in small quantities by the interaction of cosmic rays with stable krypton-84 in the atmosphere. Natural sources maintain an equilibrium inventory of about 0.09 PBq in the atmosphere.
However, as of 2009 the total amount in the atmosphere is estimated at 5500 PBq due to anthropogenic sources. At the end of the year 2000, it was estimated to be 4800 PBq, and in 1973, an estimated 1961 PBq (53 megacuries). The most important of these human sources is nuclear fuel reprocessing, as krypton-85 is one of the seven common medium-lived fission products. Nuclear fission produces about three atoms of krypton-85 for every 1000 fissions (i.e., it has a fission yield of 0.3%). Most or all of this krypton-85 is retained in the spent nuclear fuel rods; spent fuel on discharge from a reactor contains between 0.13–1.8 PBq/Mg of krypton-85. Some of this spent fuel is reprocessed. Current nuclear reprocessing releases the gaseous 85Kr into the atmosphere when the spent fuel is dissolved. It would be possible in principle to capture and store this krypton gas as nuclear waste or for use. The cumulative global amount of krypton-85 released from reprocessing activity has been estimated as 10,600 PBq as of 2000. The global inventory noted above is smaller than this amount due to radioactive decay; a smaller fraction is dissolved into the deep oceans.
Other man-made sources are small contributors to the total. Atmospheric nuclear weapons tests released an estimated 111–185 PBq. The 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant released about 1.6 PBq (43 kCi). The Chernobyl accident released about 35 PBq, and the Fukushima Daiichi accident released an estimated 44–84 PBq.
The average atmospheric concentration of krypton-85 was approximately 0.6 Bq/m3 in 1976, and has increased to approximately 1.3 Bq/m3 as of 2005. These are approximate global average values; concentrations are higher locally around nuclear reprocessing facilities, and are generally higher in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere.
For wide-area atmospheric monitoring, krypton-85 is the best indicator for clandestine plutonium separations.
Krypton-85 releases increase the electrical conductivity of atmospheric air. Meteorological effects are expected to be stronger closer to the source of the emissions.
Uses in industry
Krypton-85 is used in arc discharge lamps commonly used in the entertainment industry for large HMI film lights as well as high-intensity discharge lamps. The presence of krypton-85 in discharge tube of the lamps can make the lamps easy to ignite. Early experimental krypton-85 lighting developments included a railroad signal light designed in 1957 and an illuminated highway sign erected in Arizona in 1969. A capsule of krypton-85 is currently used by the random number server HotBits (an allusion to the radioactive element being a quantum mechanical source of entropy).
Krypton-85 is also 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.
Krypton-85 was used in cold-cathode voltage regulator electron tubes, such as the type 5651.
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