Info on Super Luminova vs Tritium


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absolut_beethoven
September 9, 2007, 11:18 PM
For those of you who are thinking about your options for low-light/night-sights, here's some excellent info on the difference between Tritium (H3) vs Super Luminova (SL). Repairing watches is my business, so I'm very familiar with the characteristics of both. FYI SL, the brightest non-radioactive material available, was invented by Seiko of Japan in the 1990's.

On the positive side, Tritium is radioactive and doesn't need to be charged beforehand in order to glow in the dark. On the downside, it has a limited lifetime that it's glow is useful. When new it's half life is about 12.5 years, which means that it's good for about 6 to 7 years before it needs to be replaced.

SL should last a lifetime, but the downside is that it needs to be *charged* beforehand by exposing it to a bright light source for a few minutes.

So how do they compare in brightness?

SL is much brighter than H3 for about the first 20 minutes and is still quite a bit brighter than it after 1 hour. After about 80 minutes in the dark their intensity is about equal. Because the glow of H3 remains constant, and because the SL continues to lose intensity until it is again exposed to a bright light, by the end of the night the H3 will be glowing a lot more brightly than the SL.

See the link below for more info and a graph of their respective light output vs time. You can click on the graph for a larger picture.

One thing to keep in mind is that the brightness of both is also greatly influenced by the amount of luminous material. So tiny dots of either are just not going to glow as brightly as large dots, regardless of how fresh the H3 is, or how long the SL has been exposed to a bright light.

http://www.rctritec.com/index.php?id=49

Feel free to post any questions an I'll answer them to the best of my knowledge.

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Oleg Volk
September 9, 2007, 11:25 PM
Insides of holsters are dark...so SL would be less reliable.

RyanM
September 9, 2007, 11:33 PM
How bright does SL get after, say, getting hit with a flashbulb from 1/2 inch away? For some reason, I'm picturing a holster that lights a flashbulb as the front sight passes by. Impractical and stupid, of course, and it'd only work for the front sight, but it'd be interesting.

absolut_beethoven
September 9, 2007, 11:38 PM
Oleg, I prefer SL because it's a lot brighter than H3 for at least the first hour. Of course one can end up in a situation where it's not possible to charge it before hand, but I think that that type of scenario is more applicable to LEOs than to civilians.

absolut_beethoven
September 9, 2007, 11:40 PM
RyanM, SL needs at least 3 to 5 minute exposure to a bright light, the whiter the better, in order to be good for at least an hour or two.

I haven't tried the flash bulb experiment, but based on such a short exposure it probably won't glow too intensely, or for too long either.

Jim March
September 10, 2007, 01:47 AM
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

It damned well MIGHT be possible to rig a holster such that it directs white LEDs onto the sights. At all times. You can power LEDs for a LONG time on very little battery power.

Here's the kicker: if the SL material isn't very hazardous and can be purchased as a "paint", the costs would be a lot lower and you could be a lot more creative in the applications. Want a crossbar rear, dot front? Etc.

The trick is in holster design, if we're talking about a CCW gun. absolut_beethoven appears to completely discount that application.

How much is this stuff, and can we get it at all? The manufacturer site above seems to say "we'll handle it for you dears" - I don't think so.

JohnKSa
September 10, 2007, 01:49 AM
It damned well MIGHT be possible to rig a holster such that it directs white LEDs onto the sights.If you were going to do that, you might as well use UV wavelength LEDs. They would be much less visible to the human eye and would probably charge the sights more effectively than white light.

I've tried a UV LED on SL sights and it works very well. But I don't have a white LED of the same general power level to compare.

absolut_beethoven
September 10, 2007, 12:18 PM
I've tried a UV LED on SL sights and it works very well. But I don't have a white LED of the same general power level to compare.

Yup, UV will work just as well, and sometimes even better depending on the wavelength, than white light.

I don't have time now because I gotta get to work, but I will post some links later of where you can buy SL.

foghornl
September 10, 2007, 12:22 PM
Hmmmm

The "Night Sights" on my SKS only seem to last about 5 minutes, after a full afternoon of sunlight.

Might be worthwhile to 're-paint' them

absolut_beethoven
September 10, 2007, 12:35 PM
The "Night Sights" on my SKS only seem to last about 5 minutes, after a full afternoon of sunlight.

That's about right for most regular luminous material i.e. masks, toys and paint etc found in toy stores for Halloween.

SL will definitely last all night long after that type of exposure. But keep in mind that it will only be brighter than H3 for about the first hour, once you have given it its maximum dosage of light.

Ghost Tracker
September 10, 2007, 12:49 PM
All this theory is great. But how many times are you pre-warned about needing to see your sights on a self-defense pistol? Social Encounters usually happen so fast that the sights are often forgotten entirely. I don't think a serious bad guy will honor your called TIME OUT while you switch on your Nitrolon G2 & re-charge your Novaks.

kirkcdl
September 10, 2007, 03:15 PM
Tag to keep track due to an upcoming purchase I'm still undecided on...;)

hso
September 10, 2007, 04:27 PM
absolut_beethoven,

Thanks for sharing this information and your professional insight.

seeker_two
September 10, 2007, 05:01 PM
The "recharging holster" is a good idea. Instead of using battery-powered lights, why not use a light-gathering tube that takes ambient light from outside and directs it onto the sights--kinda like a SolaTube...

http://www.solatube.com/homeowner/Introduction.php

Just a thought.....

shotout
September 10, 2007, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the info on Super Luminova. I changed to TruGlo Tritium/fiber optic night sights a few months ago. They are a great help with my aging eyes day and night.

One of the benefits of the new night sights was easily seeing the pistol on the nightstand at night (if laid properly). In this role the Tritium may have an advantage since they will not dim during the night.

I will try some of the SL on something else to have something to compare to.

Avenger29
September 10, 2007, 07:38 PM
Oleg, I prefer SL because it's a lot brighter than H3 for at least the first hour. Of course one can end up in a situation where it's not possible to charge it before hand, but I think that that type of scenario is more applicable to LEOs than to civilians.

I don't think it would be useful for me, at least in the SD/HD role. After all, my shotgun sleeps in the same completely dark room that I do.

I'll stick with tritum, if I need it. Or optical sights, such as reddots/holographic sights.

Jim March
September 10, 2007, 08:08 PM
Ghost Tracker: if a holster can be built that continuously charges the SL with a battery-powered white or UV light source, you'd have 24/7 instant-on capability.

As a CCW holder and mostly-amateur holstermaker, I thought about fiber-optic light pipes and pretty quickly discarded that idea. They would have to point upwards and would be a constant snag threat from hell.

UV would be OK for some apps, not for others - in particular, I don't relish an "IWB sunburn"...

The intial poster doesn't understand self defense needs. He's going to have to get his head in gear if he's serious about promoting this.

absolut_beethoven
September 10, 2007, 11:10 PM
The intial poster doesn't understand self defense needs. He's going to have to get his head in gear if he's serious about promoting this.

While I certainly don't consider myself an expert, I have a fair understanding of what MY self defense needs are, based on a few decades of martial arts training and some reasonably good military training thanks to the South African army. Of course, your understanding and needs may differ, and who am I to argue.

All I tried to do is present the facts as I see them and as objectively as possible. Both H3 and SL have their positives and their negatives as I pointed out above.

If you don't understand why I personally prefer SL, feel free to ask instead of implying that I'm clueless about self defense.

IMHO if you're firing your firearm in the dark and ALL you can see is your nice bright 3 dots, be they H3 or SL, you're making a huge mistake. Your mileage may vary.

JohnKSa
September 11, 2007, 12:07 AM
IMHO if you're firing your firearm in the dark and ALL you can see is your nice bright 3 dots, be they H3 or SL, you're making a huge mistake. Your mileage may vary.That's my opinion as well..

If you wanted to design a holster to keep the sights charged, it might as well be smart--microchips are cheap and small. Maybe set it up so that the UV light(s) only come on every half hour or so for a few minutes to bring it up to a full charge. Things like detecting the amount of ambient light, motion of the holster, etc. could also be incorporated.

Ghost Tracker
September 11, 2007, 10:53 AM
[Ghost Tracker: if a holster can be built that continuously charges the SL with a battery-powered white or UV light source, you'd have 24/7 instant-on capability.]

I have enough trouble remembering to keep the battery in my Cell Phone recharged. Having to constantly remember to recharge the batteries in my light emitting holster is a bit over-the-top for me.

FieroCDSP
September 11, 2007, 11:03 AM
Interesting ideas...

Bwana John
September 11, 2007, 11:56 AM
When new it's half life is about 12.5 years, which means that it's good for about 6 to 7 years before it needs to be replaced
Does anybody know how old tritium is before it get used for night sites?:confused:

My guess is that H3 does not get released to the general public until it is no longer usefull for a fusion devise.:what:

On the subject of H3 vs SL there is no compairison(for me), Im not going to be able to get out a light and recharge the SL in a true night time encounter.

PS-H3 has a half life of ~12 years no matter how old it is.(after 12 years 1/2, after 24 years 1/4, after 48 years 1/8 ect...
Ive used H3 in watches now for 8 years and it still works fine.

Avenger29
September 11, 2007, 12:06 PM
I have enough trouble remembering to keep the battery in my Cell Phone recharged. Having to constantly remember to recharge the batteries in my light emitting holster is a bit over-the-top for me.

The idea of rigging a holster to charge your SL sights is violating the KISS principle.

You have to have the power source for the charging holster (batteries, and keeping them charged), possible fragility, etc. to worry about.

Tritum? Simply install the sights and replace when they grow too dim.

seeker_two
September 11, 2007, 04:00 PM
There used to be a company (Cen-Dex, IIRC) that made a transparent Kydex-like holster. Something like that (with clear fiber-optic tubing placed in strategic locations) could work for recharging SL from ambient light.... :scrutiny:

KBintheSLC
September 11, 2007, 04:16 PM
I agree with Avenger29. All of this complexity revolving around the SL seems to create more compromises that it solves. I have tritium's on my G26 and I love them in darkness and in light. They are also guaranteed for 12 years (Meprolite). I am okay with replacing my sites every 12 years at $70 a pop... think how much you'll blow on batteries and cheezy over-engineered holsters.

RyanM
September 11, 2007, 04:46 PM
Does anybody know how old tritium is before it get used for night sites?

My guess is that H3 does not get released to the general public until it is no longer usefull for a fusion devise.

That's... not how it works. Half-life means the time for the radioactive material to erode into something else, not just brightness. That means that if you have 1 gram of tritium, 12.5 years later you'll have 1/2 gram of tritium and 1/2 gram of something else. Radioactive substances don't "wear out," they break down into other elements.

A certain amount of tritium is put in the sights at the time of manufacture. They're not going to inject just any old mixture of tritium plus radioactive decay products. Every sight (of the same model, etc.) gets as close to an identical amount of tritium as is physically possible, and it'll be as pure as physically possible. A better question would be how long the sights were in storage, and thus how much of the original tritium has degraded.

DoubleTapDrew
September 11, 2007, 04:54 PM
My underwear gets more light exposure on a given day than my CCW or HD gun. I don't like the idea of having to "charge" anything on a tool I might depend on to save my life at any given moment. CCW stays in the holster. HD gun stays hidden.

absolut_beethoven
September 12, 2007, 01:56 AM
Just to clear up a little bit of confusion about Tritium and to put things in perspective.

It's 12.5 year half life means that after that period of time your H3 sights will only glow half as brightly. After 25 years it's intensity will only be a 1/4 of what it was originally, and so on.

H3 itself, while it is a radioactive substance, is extremely weak and won't even penetrate your skin. However, it could be fatal if one were to ingest it.

Prior to H3, Radium was used to activate the luminous material. Radium has a half life of about 1600 years, so after 800 years it will still retain 50% of its brightness. Unfortunately, Radium is much more dangerous than H3 and even low doses can be fatal and cause major health problems.

As I mentioned earlier, I like SL because it glows much more brightly than H3. This is especially useful in low light situations where your pupils are not fully dilated. Of course if you're carrying your gun in a holster all day, something not possible for me here on the Left Koast, SL may not be right for you.

For those of you who would like to experiment with it, here are two links below from a watch supply house. The first link is for the complete kit. Just scroll down to the Super-Luminova kit. This kit contains the powder, the glue and a thinner. Otherwise you can click on the second link and buy just the powder (the refill) and mix it with a little bit of 5 minute epoxy and paint it where you want it. I went the latter route after removing the white plastic inserts from my Walther P99.

FYI the white SL glows the brightest. It's slightly off white under day light, and glows bright green in the dark. The blue SL appears slightly blue green under day light and glows a bluish green in the dark. While the initial intensity of the blue is not quite as bright as the white, it does seem to last longer before it needs additional exposure to light.

FWIW Rolex and most other Swiss watch companies use the white SL, also known as C1 and Citizen and a few other watch companies use the blue or blue/green, known as C9 and B2. See Tritec's link below for more on the different colors. Note that all the other colors glow a lot less brightly than the blue and the white.

http://www.ofrei.com/page737.html

http://www.ofrei.com/page972.html

http://www.rctritec.com/index.php?id=17

lbmii
September 12, 2007, 03:20 AM
If anything my tritium sights might be too bright. There is a ballance to be reached on brightness.

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