DOI: 10.1515/pac-2023-0809 ISSN: 0033-4545

A critical review of the quantification, analysis and detection of radionuclides in the environment using diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT): advances and perspectives

Leonardo Pantoja, Hemda Garelick
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


This critical review explores the quantification, analysis, and detection of radionuclides in the environment using the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) technique. Radionuclides, unstable isotopes emitting ionising radiation, are present in the environment due to natural and anthropogenic sources for which concerns are raised about their impact on human health and ecosystems. DGT offers a unique passive sampling approach for understanding the behaviour of radionuclides and other trace elements. This review provides insights into method development, real case scenarios, advantages, limitations, and future perspectives of DGT in radionuclide analysis. In terms of method development, various isotopes have been analysed with varying significance based on origin, concentration, risks, and persistence. Notably, U, Th, Pu, Am, Cm, 99Tc, 226Ra, 137Cs, 134Cs, 232U, 237Np, and 152Eu have been measured, revealing their diverse roles in environmental radioactivity. Real case scenarios illustrate applications in uranium mining, water quality monitoring, and metal speciation studies, shedding light on mobility, bioavailability, and ecological impacts. DGT’s advantages include in-situ monitoring, time-averaged mean concentrations, and comprehensive speciation insights. Challenges include potential influences from biofouling, temperature changes and specifically the possible degradation of the binding and diffuse layer due to ionising radiation in long term exposures. In addition, the distinction between fully labile free metal ions and partially labile metal-ligand complexes introduces a potential limitation in the DGT technique, hence being an opportunity for future studies. Looking forward, DGT is expected to contribute to radiation dose modelling, environmental risk assessment, and water quality monitoring, with ongoing developments enhancing its utility and accuracy.

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