Fresh rain water contains the highest concentration of tritium. For example, twenty-year old wine is expected to have tritium content one third of the amount found in fresh rain water, or a twenty-five old wine would show one fourth of the activity found in fresh water.
Thus, this method of dating water has found extensive applications in hydrology as well.
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It was simple to isolate tritium from the target by reacting lithium with water.
The radioactivity from hydrogen gas along with molecular species with tritium atoms thus isolated, was established with an ionization chamber.
It took almost twenty years to characterize this radioisotope.
In the mean time, it was established that tritium was continually being produced by nuclear transmutations brought about by cosmic-ray neutrons with air in much the same way as carbon-14 is produced in atmosphere.
He found helium-3 in helium gas from oil wells as well as helium from the atmosphere.