Tritium Technology Explained

Tritium exit signs use exactly what their name implies to illuminate EXIT in glowing green: tritium. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that glows green when exposed to phosphor.


The term "radioactive" may sound a bit dangerous, but tritium exit signs are completely safe and emit absolutely no radioactivity when in use. The tritium is safely encased in shatter-proof borosilicate glass tubes that are configured as letters that display the EXIT letters on the tritium exit sign. 

View our most popular Tritium Exit Signs

Radioactive decay

When tritium begins the process of radioactive decay, it emits electrons that produce illumination when they come into contact with phosphor. Radioactive decay starts when the atomic nucleus of an unstable hydrogen atom emits ionized articles. Tritium exit signs employ beta decay to emit electrons from the atom at a speed very close to the speed of light. Naturally occurring tritium is very rare and is usually produced in nuclear reactors. This process may sound overly complicated, but the simple fact remains: this gas effectively powers tritium exit signs for up to 20 years with no need for a battery.

The truth about tritium

Tritium exit signs sometimes get a negative connotation because they use radioactive materials. These exit signs are 100% safe for a variety of reasons. First, the tritium exit sign uses a light but durable thermoplastic housing to protect internal components from moderate abuse. It is rare that exit signs incur damage because they are usually located in difficult to reach locations - vandals notwithstanding. The tritium exit sign also employs shatter-proof borosilicate tubes to ensure tritium is kept inside the fixture at all times. If tritium was to leak (which is extremely rare) it is not dangerous when exposed externally because beta particles cannot penetrate the skin. 

Tritium in exit signs

The marriage between tritium technology and the need for reliable emergency-capable exit signs produced the tritium exit sign. Exit signs require reliable illumination, but not high-powered lamp heads like emergency lights, making tritium the perfect material for the glowing green EXIT letters. This technology works perfectly in tritium exit signs because it is self-powered and therefor does not require an AC connection or battery pack. Tritium exit signs comply with the same UL codes as standard exit signs, but save on power costs for each year they are installed. 


For more information regarding tritium technology or to request a quote for a tritium exit sign, email us or call at 800-480-0707 to speak with a representative at any time of the day.

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