Tritium-Max Beta Lights.
by Henry de Beer - Updated 15 March 2013
Some of the most frequent questions asked these days by both dealers and anglers alike concerning Beta Lights and their uses.
Beta Lights, although old news in Europe, are now for the first time freely available in South Africa, in two strengths and a
variety of sizes for all applications.
The smallest, 6 x 2mm, is mostly used to light up British buzzers (alarms) such as the ATTx and Fox range. The medium
size, 12 x 2mm, is used on various hangers, Bug Indicators, rod rest heads and the TLB Compact Sensor Heads while
the large 22.5 x 3mm Beta Lights are mostly used to light up various swingers including the Fox Euro.
What is Beta Lights?
Beta Lights are small glass tubes, in various sizes, filled with Tritium gas (the light source). Tritium is the ultimate continuous
light source with a life-time of 15-20 years. We use them at night time to light up buzzers (alarms), swingers, hangers,
rod tips, landing nets etc.
There are two types of Beta Lights. Standard strength Beta Lights have been available for quite a few years. Originally the
manufacturers only made green Beta Lights, for the military, but then some people started seeing the commercial potential for
these clever little products and started selling them to the public. Everybody used the green ones, especially because they
were seen as a brand new ‘invention’ at the time. But people wanted different colors, choices, individuality and they wanted
to customize their rods or their buzzers. Thus blue, red, yellow, orange, white, purple etc. became available.
The very latest Beta Lights, Tritium-Max, are as bright as the current technology will allow. You cannot get a brighter Beta Light.
The limitations are all to do with the glass tubes themselves. The more tritium gas (and colored phosphorous to give the
different colors) you can pump inside the tube, the greater the concentration of tritium and the brighter the Beta Lights will be.
But as you pump more gas inside the pressure gets too high and the glass will shatter. There is a limit, a certain tolerance,
for each size of tube, determined by the thickness of the glass. So a smaller, tiny Beta Light will only be capable of
containing a lower pressure of gas, so the brightness will be much lower. Tritium-Max Beta Lights have the maximum amount
of gas pumped inside them, before they get dangerously close to the limit the glass can take. This amount varies slightly
depending on the color; the green ones will always be slightly brighter than the other colors.
But to the human eye, in a real fishing situation (or your average fishing situation at least) there will not be a noticeable difference.
When you are up close the green will not look brighter than the other colors, because your eye will not be able to accurately
measure it. You will just see all the colors very clearly, although the green might appear a bit brighter.
But as you move away from the lights, more than 5 meters away…more than 10 meters away…etc…then you can start to see a
bigger difference. To the human eye the red will
barely be visible at long range but the green will still be clearly seen. When used in a real life situation this is rarely a
significant problem, unless you are at long range.
Not happy with the brightness of your Beta Lights?
If you want to maximise the brightness of any Beta Light, use a glue that is white when it sets (not clear epoxy, superglue
or rig glue). Using a white glue or painting the back of the Beta Light with – say – Tippex correction fluid or white paint will
help to reflect more of the light out the ‘front’ of the light and can increase the visible brightness by up to 25%.
Coating the slot/recess of the alarm/rod (or whatever the Beta Light is going to be fitted into) with white paint will achieve the
same effect…any way of getting the light to reflect where you want it to be seen, rather than be absorbed by the black hole
in which it is fitted!
Do not use superglue!
Why not? Well, one of the best ways of removing superglue is……water.
I’ve seen superglue turn an ugly white colour (from rain water) and if water is trapped inside the bobbin (bite alarm) slot the superglue will stay wet, softening it over time.
BUT......If the Beta Lights don't fit snugly don't use glue, smear some clear silicone inside the slot and push them in. Some Beta Lights don't fit snugly and they'd crack if you force them in, the silicone then acts as a cushion.
You don't need much, literally a smear. Fill the slot, push the isotope in and smooth over. Some silicones are clearer than others and dry like glass, use one of them.
After the isotope is in the slot, you will have a surplus of Silicone forced out, just wipe the excess clean with rubbing alcohol and leave till dry.
Is Beta Lights dangerous?Tritium is a radioactive gas (obviously) but is completely harmless in the form of a Beta Light. The radiation cannot escape
through the glass (scientifically impossible) so the user is never exposed to any radiation unless the glass is smashed. If
the glass is smashed, the gas will escape (and the Beta Light will no longer work of course) but the gas will be harmlessly
dispersed into the surrounding atmosphere within 5mm. So – in other words – after the gas has travelled 5mm into the air
it is dispersed to such a safe level that it would only be detectable by extremely sensitive equipment, and at that level it
would not be harmful in any way to humans or the environment. There are millions of radioactive particles in the air
around us anyway, and in the water that we all drink (not a lot of people know that), but the levels are so minute that
they are not harmful. Our bodies have evolved for millennia to be able to tolerate them. Probably even good for us at
certain levels! Even if you were to inject the tritium gas from a betalight into your veins it would pass through the human
body and be secreted in your urine within about 3-4 days. You would have to smash many thousands of Beta Lights into
a container, pump the gas into a syringe and inject all of that into your blood to have any sort of effect and who would
want to do that? In short, it is more harmful to your body to put a spoonful of sugar in your coffee or to pat your head
once a day.
About the Author:Henry de Beer is at present a full time writer for the Henkor Website.
You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.
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