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Health Phys. 1990 Oct;59(4):393-404.

Adsorption and desorption of noble gases on activated charcoal: II. 222Rn studies in a monolayer and packed bed.

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U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Measurements Laboratory, New York, NY 10014.

Erratum in

  • Health Phys 1991 Jun;60(6):873.


The adsorptive and desorptive characteristics of canisters containing a petroleum-based charcoal were investigated under controlled conditions of temperature, relative humidity, and Rn concentration. Charcoals exposed in a monolayer and packed bed during exposure intervals of 1-7 d demonstrate that Rn adsorption and desorption are dependent on bed depth and the amount of water adsorbed. Changes in the adsorptive and desorptive properties of the charcoal occurred near the break-point where the pores became occluded by water vapor that condenses in the entrance capillaries. Radon-222 adsorption is decreased by an order of magnitude as the amount of adsorbed water exceeds the break-point of the charcoal. The reduction in pore surface due to adsorbed water results in a marked increase in the rate of Rn loss from exposed canisters, accounting for reduced adsorption. The apparent desorption time-constant for a 2-cm bed of loose Witco 6 x 10 mesh charcoal containing 0.220-0.365 kg H2O kg-1 is typically between 2-8 h. The apparent desorption time-constant for an equivalent packed bed containing a water vapor content of 0.026-0.060 kg H2O kg-1, which is below the break-point of the charcoal, is about 15-30 h. Conventional charcoal canisters, if exposed in the fully-opened configuration, can achieve the break-point in less than 4 d at 70% humidity. The use of a diffusion barrier would allow for longer exposure times until the break-point of the charcoal is achieved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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