Tech Briefs

Savannah River National Laboratory

Recovery of Tritium from a Molten Lithium Blanket

Technology Overview

Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has developed electrochemical cells and methods for the recovery of tritium from a molten lithium solution without the need for a separation or concentration step.


  • Reduced capital and operating costs
  • Straightforward removal of tritium gas from lithium metal blankets
  • No need for pre-electrolysis separation methods


  • Lithium metal blanket recycling
  • Tritium production
  • Environmental remediation of lithium cooled reactor blankets


The lithium blankets surrounding the core of neutron generating devices, such as fusion and advanced fission reactors, can advantageously be used for both heat transfer and the production of tritium. Tritium is useful in applications such as lighting and weapons production. It is also the primary fuel source for fusion reactors. A method has been developed for the safe and effective recovery of tritium from a molten lithium blanket that offers reduced capital and operating costs and is more straight forward than previously known methods. In this novel process, the molten lithium can function as a second electrode and form lithium ions and tritium gas when a voltage is applied. The method and system can also be utilized to convert LiT to lithium metal that can be recycled back to the blanket.

Leuco dyes are dyes that can switch between visually differentiable forms under thermal, optical, or some other stimulus. Leuco dyes have been investigated as radiation-detecting chromophores and have shown promise for responses required within a few thousand rad. The most common leuco dye, and the one typically used in radiation detecting applications, is malachite green. In radiation detection applications, leuco dyes have been shown to have sensitivities ranging from about 2,500 to about 4 x 106 rad. While such sensitivity levels have proven useful, leuco dyes capable of exhibiting increased sensitivities, e.g., in the millirad range, would be of great benefit. Further, existing radiation detection systems can only be utilized one time and the system becomes completely degraded, further adding to cost of the systems. What is needed in the art are leuco dyes and systems incorporating the leuco dyes that can detect low level γ radiation doses quickly and effectively.

Intellectual Property

This technology and methods for its use have been granted U.S. Patent No. 10,450,660 B2 (October 22, 2019), “Recovery of Tritium from a Molten Lithium Blanket” and is available for licensing.

Partnering Opportunities

SRNL invites interested companies with proven capabilities in this area of expertise to develop commercial applications for this process under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) or licensing agreement. Interested companies will be requested to submit a business plan setting forth company qualifications, strategies, activities, and milestones for commercializing this invention. Qualifications should include past experience at bringing similar products to market, reasonable schedule for product launch, sufficient manufacturing capacity, established distribution networks, and evidence of sufficient financial resources for product development and launch.

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Contact Information

Savannah River National Laboratory