Detector for Ultra-Sensitive Tritium Gas Detection

A metal hydride and gas (MEGA) activated proportional counter for ultra-senitive tritium gas detection

The Need

In 2022, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) introduced a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the establishment of a gaseous radioisotope in-situ analysis laboratory (GRAIL). This initiative aims to address a challenge that current commercial products on the market have not met. The BAA specifies a requirement for a tritium gas detection system with sensitivity orders of magnitude higher than the existing detector system available for measuring ultra-low levels of tritium. The highest sensitivity currently provided by commercially available detectors is 0.01 μCi/m3,

The Technology

Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Lei (Raymond) Cao, have developed a novel concept aimed at fulfilling the requirement for detecting ultra-low concentrations of tritium. This idea combines the well-established technology utilized in the hydrogen storage industry, namely metal hydride formation, with the widely used gas proportional counter for tritium detection thereby enabling a dector with the highest sensitivity but also at a low cost. The innovation is the integration of a metal hydride with a gas detector, referred to as MEGA (Metal and Gas) sensor, within an ionization counter.

Commercial Applications

  • Detect clandestine nuclear activities that are not adequately addressed by existing products in the market
  • Monitoring tritium production, handling facilities, nuclear power plants, fusion research facilities, and radiochemical facilities
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Measuring radiation isotopes for cancer treatment and medical research


  • Tritium-gas sensitivity of 0.001 μCi/m3 (one order of magnitude better than the best commercial product available at 0.01 μCi/m3)
  • Weight of approximately 50 lbs (one order of magnitude better than the best commercial product available at 530 lbs)
  • Price point (selling price) estimated to be 80% LESS than the price point of the best commercial product available

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