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On the fate of 220Rn in soil material in dependence of water content: Implications from field and laboratory experiments

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Huxol Stephan, Brennwald Matthias S., Hoehn Eduard, Kipfer Rolf,
Project Rn-220 (Thoron) in ground water and soil gas (Continuation)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Chemical Geology
Volume (Issue) 298-299
Page(s) 116 - 122
Title of proceedings Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2012.01.002

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


To study the potential of 220Rn as a groundwater tracer, we analyzed different groundwater systems with a laboratory-proven radon-in-water detection system. However, with one single exception, no 220Rn was detected in the groundwater, although 222Rn was always present at high concentrations. Field observations of 220Rn and 222Rn in soil gas revealed soil water content to be the crucial control for 220Rn release from soil grains to soil pores. We identified water films around and water menisci between the soil grains to impede the diffusive transport of 220Rn. This finding was confirmed by the results of laboratory experiments with monazite pebbles and manganese sand, which both are 220Rn sources. Besides the water content, the laboratory experiments also identified the water flow (turbulent in the experiment versus laminar in groundwater) to control the 220Rn emanation. The laminar flow condition in groundwater, together with the soil water content, set a conceptual frame to explain why 220Rn can be detected in unsaturated soil but not in groundwater.