General Name, symbol deuterium, 2H or D Neutrons 1 Protons 1 Nuclide Data Natural abundance 0.015% Half-life Stable Isotope mass 2.01410178 u Spin 1+ Excess energy 13,135.720±0.001 keV Binding energy 2,224.52±0.20 keV
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in 6,420 of hydrogen (~156.25 ppm on an atom-basis). Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% (or on a mass basis: 0.0312%) of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope (hydrogen-1 or protium) accounts for more than 99.98%. The abundance of deuterium changes slightly from one kind of natural water to another (see VSMOW).
The nucleus of deuterium, called a deuteron, contains one proton and one neutron, whereas the far more common hydrogen isotope, protium, has no neutron in the nucleus. The deuterium isotope's name is formed from the Greek deuteros meaning "second", to denote the two particles composing the nucleus. Deuterium was discovered and named in 1931 by Harold Urey, earning him a Nobel Prize in 1934 after the discovery of the neutron in 1932 made the structure of deuterium obvious. Soon after deuterium's discovery, Urey and others produced samples of water in which deuterium has been highly concentrated with respect to protium, a substance popularly known as heavy water.
Because deuterium is destroyed in the interiors of stars faster than it is produced, and because other natural processes are thought to produce only an insignificant amount of deuterium, it is presently thought that nearly all deuterium found in nature was produced in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, and that the basic or primordial ratio of hydrogen-1 (protium) to deuterium (about 26 atoms of deuterium per million hydrogen) has its origin from that time. This is the ratio found in the gas giant planets, such as Jupiter. However, different astronomical bodies are found to have different ratios of deuterium to hydrogen-1, and this is thought to be as a result of natural isotope separation processes that occur from solar heating of ices in comets. Like the water-cycle in Earth's weather, such heating processes may enrich deuterium with respect to protium. In fact, the discovery of deuterium/protium ratios in a number of comets very simlar to the mean ratio in Earth's oceans, has led to theories that much of Earth's ocean water has a cometary origin..
Deuterium/protium ratios thus continue to be an active topic of research in both astronomy and climatology.
- 1 Differences between deuterium and common hydrogen (protium)
- 2 Properties
- 3 Applications
- 4 History
- 5 Data
- 6 Anti-deuterium
- 7 Pycnodeuterium
- 8 Ultra-dense deuterium
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Differences between deuterium and common hydrogen (protium)
Deuterium is frequently represented by the chemical symbol D. Since it is an isotope of hydrogen with mass number 2, it is also represented by 2
H. IUPAC allows both D and 2
H, although 2
H is preferred. A distinct chemical symbol is used for convenience because of the isotope's common use in various scientific processes. Also, its large mass difference with protium (1
H) (deuterium has a mass of 2.014102 u, compared to the mean hydrogen atomic weight of 1.007947 u, and protium's mass of 1.007825 u) confers non-negligible chemical dissimilarities with protium-containing compounds, whereas the isotope weight ratios within other chemical elements are largely insignificant in this regard.
Deuterium occurs in trace amounts naturally as deuterium gas, written 2
H2 or D2, but most natural occurrence in the universe is bonded with a typical 1
H atom, a gas called hydrogen deuteride (HD or 1
The natural deuterium abundance seems to be a very similar fraction of hydrogen, wherever hydrogen is found. Thus, the existence of deuterium at a low but constant fraction in all hydrogen, is one of the arguments in favor of the Big Bang theory over the Steady State theory of the universe. It is estimated that the abundances of deuterium have not evolved significantly since their production about 13.7 bya.
Deuterium abundance on Jupiter has been directly measured at 26 atoms D per million hydrogens by the Galileo entry probe; ISO-SWS observations find 22 atoms of D per million H atoms in Jupiter. and this abundance is thought to represent close to the primordial solar system ratio. This is about 17% of the terrestrial deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio of 156 deuterium atoms per million hydrogen atoms.
Cometary bodies such as Comet Hale Bopp and Halley's Comet have been measured to contain relatively more deuterium (about 200 atoms D per million hydrogens), ratios which are enriched with respect to the presumed protosolar nebula ratio, probably due to heating, and which are similar to the ratios found in Earth seawater. The recent measurement of deuterium amounts of 161 atoms D per million hydrogen in Comet 103P/Hartley (a former Kuiper belt object), a ratio almost exactly that in Earth's oceans, emphasizes the theory that Earth's surface water may be largely comet-derived.
There is thought to be little deuterium in the interior of the Sun and other stars, as at temperatures there nuclear fusion reactions that consume deuterium happen much faster than the proton-proton reaction that creates deuterium. However, it continues to persist in the outer solar atmosphere at roughly the same concentration as in Jupiter.
The existence of deuterium on Earth, elsewhere in the solar system (as confirmed by planetary probes), and in the spectra of stars, is an important datum in cosmology. Gamma radiation from ordinary nuclear fusion dissociates deuterium into protons and neutrons, and there are no known natural processes other than the Big Bang nucleosynthesis, which might have produced deuterium at anything close to the observed natural abundance of deuterium (deuterium is produced by the rare cluster decay, and occasional absorption of naturally occurring neutrons by light hydrogen, but these are trivial sources).
Concentrating natural abundance deuterium
Deuterium is concentrated for industrial, scientific and military purposes as heavy water from ordinary water. The world's leading supplier of deuterium was Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, in Canada, until 1997, when the last heavy water plant was shut down. Canada uses heavy water as a neutron moderator for the operation of the CANDU reactor design..
The physical properties of deuterium compounds can exhibit significant kinetic isotope effects and other physical and chemical property differences from the hydrogen analogs; for example, D2O is more viscous than H2O. Chemically, deuterium behaves similarly to ordinary hydrogen, but there are differences in bond energy and length for compounds of heavy hydrogen isotopes which are larger than the isotopic differences in any other element. Bonds involving deuterium and tritium are somewhat stronger than the corresponding bonds in hydrogen, and these differences are enough to make significant changes in biological reactions.
Deuterium can replace the normal hydrogen in water molecules to form heavy water (D2O), which is about 10.6% denser than normal water (enough that ice made from it sinks in ordinary water). Heavy water is slightly toxic in eukaryotic animals, with 25% substitution of the body water causing cell division problems and sterility, and 50% substitution causing death by cytotoxic syndrome (bone marrow failure and gastrointestinal lining failure). Prokaryotic organisms, however, can survive and grow in pure heavy water (though they grow more slowly). Consumption of heavy water does not pose a health threat to humans, it is estimated that a 70 kg person might drink 4.8 liters of heavy water without serious consequences. Small doses of heavy water (a few grams in humans, containing an amount of deuterium comparable to that normally present in the body) are routinely used as harmless metabolic tracers in humans and animals.
The deuteron has spin +1 ("triplet") and is thus a boson. The NMR frequency of deuterium is significantly different from common light hydrogen. Infrared spectroscopy also easily differentiates many deuterated compounds, due to the large difference in IR absorption frequency seen in the vibration of a chemical bond containing deuterium, versus light hydrogen. The two stable isotopes of hydrogen can also be distinguished by using mass spectrometry.
The triplet deuteron nucleon barely is bound at EB = 2.23 MeV, so all the higher energy states are not bound. The singlet deuteron is a virtual state, with a negative binding energy of ~60 keV. There is no such stable particle, but this virtual particle transiently exists during neutron-proton inelastic scattering, accounting for the unusually large neutron scattering cross-section of the proton.
Nuclear properties (the deuteron)
Deuteron mass and radius
Spin and energy
Deuterium is one of only four stable nuclides with an odd number of protons and odd number of neutrons. (2
N; also, the long-lived radioactive nuclides 40
Ta occur naturally.) Most odd-odd nuclei are unstable with respect to beta decay, because the decay products are even-even, and are therefore more strongly bound, due to nuclear pairing effects. Deuterium, however, benefits from having its proton and neutron coupled to a spin-1 state, which gives a stronger nuclear attraction; the corresponding spin-1 state does not exist in the two-neutron or two-proton system, due to the Pauli exclusion principle which would require one or the other identical particle with the same spin to have some other different quantum number, such as orbital angular momentum. But orbital angular momentum of either particle gives a lower binding energy for the system, primarily due to increasing distance of the particles in the steep gradient of the nuclear force. In both cases, this causes the diproton and dineutron nucleus to be unstable.
The proton and neutron making up deuterium can be dissociated through neutral current interactions with neutrinos. The cross section for this interaction is comparatively large, and deuterium was successfully used as a neutrino target in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory experiment.
Isospin singlet state of the deuteron
Due to the similarity in mass and nuclear properties between the proton and neutron, they are sometimes considered as two symmetric types of the same object, a nucleon. While only the proton has an electric charge, this is often negligible due of the weakness of the electromagnetic interaction relative to the strong nuclear interaction. The symmetry relating the proton and neutron is known as isospin and denoted I (or sometimes T).
Isospin is an SU(2) symmetry, like ordinary spin, so is completely analogous to it. The proton and neutron form an isospin doublet, with a "down" state (↓) being a neutron, and an "up" state (↑) being a proton.
This is a nucleus with one proton and one neutron, i.e. a deuterium nucleus. The triplet is
and thus consists of three types of nuclei, which are supposed to be symmetric: a deuterium nucleus (actually a highly excited state of it), a nucleus with two protons, and a nucleus with two neutrons. The latter two nuclei are not stable or nearly stable, and therefore so is this type of deuterium (meaning that it is indeed a highly excited state of deuterium).
Approximated wavefunction of the deuteron
The deuteron wavefunction must be antisymmetric if the isospin representation is used (since a proton and a neutron are not identical particles, the wavefunction need not be antisymmetric in general). Apart from their isospin, the two nucleons also have spin and spatial distributions of their wavefunction. The latter is symmetric if the deuteron is symmetric under parity (i.e. have an "even" or "positive" parity), and antisymmetric if the deuteron is antisymmetric under parity (i.e. have an "odd" or "negative" parity). The parity is fully determined by the total orbital angular momentum of the two nucleons: if it is even then the parity is even (positive), and if it is odd then the parity is odd (negative).
The deuteron, being an isospin singlet, is antisymmetric under nucleons exchange due to isospin, and therefore must be symmetric under the double exchange of their spin and location. Therefore it can be in either of the following two different states:
- Symmetric spin and symmetric under parity. In this case, the exchange of the two nucleons will multiply the deuterium wavefunction by (-1) from isospin exchange, (+1) from spin exchange and (+1) from parity (location exchange), for a total of (-1) as needed for antisymmetry.
- Antisymmetric spin and antisymmetric under parity. In this case, the exchange of the two nucleons will multiply the deuterium wavefunction by (-1) from isospin exchange, (-1) from spin exchange and (-1) from parity (location exchange), again for a total of (-1) as needed for antisymmetry.
In the first case the deuteron is a spin triplet, so that its total spin s is 1. It also has an even parity and therefore even orbital angular momentum l ; The lower its orbital angular momentum, the lower its energy. Therefore the lowest possible energy state has s = 1, l = 0.
In the second case the deuteron is a spin singlet, so that its total spin s is 0. It also has an odd parity and therefore odd orbital angular momentum l. Therefore the lowest possible energy state has s = 0, l = 1.
Since s = 1 gives a stronger nuclear attraction, the deuterium ground state is in the s =1, l = 0 state.
The same considerations lead to the possible states of an isospin triplet having s = 0, l = even or s = 1, l = odd. Thus the state of lowest energy has s = 1, l = 1, higher than that of the isospin singlet.
The analysis just given is in fact only approximate, both because isospin is not an exact symmetry, and more importantly because the strong nuclear interaction between the two nucleons is related to angular momentum in spin-orbit interaction that mixes different s and l states. That is, s and l are not constant in time (they do not commute with the Hamiltonian), and over time a state such as s = 1, l = 0 may become a state of s = 1, l = 2. Parity is still constant in time so these do not mix with odd l states (such as s = 0, l = 1). Therefore the quantum state of the deuterium is a superposition (a linear combination) of the s = 1, l = 0 state and the s = 1, l = 2 state, even though the first component is much bigger. Since the total angular momentum j is also a good quantum number (it is a constant in time), both components must have the same j, and therefore j = 1. This is the total spin of the deuterium nucleus.
To summarize, the deuterium nucleus is antisymmetric in terms of isospin, and has spin 1 and even (+1) parity. The relative angular momentum of its nucleons l is not well defined, and the deuteron is a superposition of mostly l = 0 with some l = 2.
Magnetic and electric multipoles
In order to find theoretically the deuterium magnetic dipole moment µ, one uses the formula for a nuclear magnetic moment
g(l) and g(s) are g-factors of the nucleons.
Since the proton and neutron have different values for g(l) and g(s), one must separate their contributions. Each gets half of the deuterium orbital angular momentum and spin . One arrives at
where subscripts p and n stand for the proton and neutron, and g(l)n = 0.
For the s = 1, l = 0 state (j = 1), we obtain
For the s = 1, l = 2 state (j = 1), we obtain
The measured value of the deuterium magnetic dipole moment, is 0.857 µ
N. This suggests that the state of the deuterium is indeed only approximately s = 1, l = 0 state, and is actually a linear combination of (mostly) this state with s = 1, l = 2 state.
The electric dipole is zero as usual.
The measured electric quadrupole of the deuterium is 0.2859 e·fm2. While the order of magnitude is reasonable, since the deuterium radius is of order of 1 femtometer (see below) and its electric charge is e, the above model does not suffice for its computation. More specifically, the electric quadrupole does not get a contribution from the l =0 state (which is the dominant one) and does get a contribution from a term mixing the l =0 and the l =2 states, because the electric quadrupole operator does not commute with angular momentum. The latter contribution is dominant in the absence of a pure l = 0 contribution, but cannot be calculated without knowing the exact spatial form of the nucleons wavefunction inside the deuterium.
Higher magnetic and electric multipole moments cannot be calculated by the above model, for similar reasons.
Deuterium has a number of commercial and scientific uses. These include:
Deuterium is useful in nuclear fusion reactions, especially in combination with tritium, because of the large reaction rate (or nuclear cross section) and high energy yield of the D–T reaction. There is an even higher-yield D–3
He fusion reaction, though the breakeven point of D–3
He is higher than that of most other fusion reactions; together with the scarcity of 3
He, this makes it implausible as a practical power source until at least D–T and D–D fusion reactions have been performed on a commercial scale.
Deuterium NMR spectra are especially informative in the solid state because of its relatively small quadrupole moment in comparison with those of bigger quadrupolar nuclei such as chlorine-35, for example.
In chemistry, biochemistry and environmental sciences, deuterium is used as a non-radioactive, stable isotopic tracer, for example, in the doubly labeled water test. In chemical reactions and metabolic pathways, deuterium behaves somewhat similarly to ordinary hydrogen (with a few chemical differences, as noted). It can be distinguished from ordinary hydrogen most easily by its mass, using mass spectrometry or infrared spectrometry. Deuterium can be detected by femtosecond infrared spectroscopy, since the mass difference drastically affects the frequency of molecular vibrations; deuterium-carbon bond vibrations are found in locations free of other signals.
Measurements of small variations in the natural abundances of deuterium, along with those of the stable heavy oxygen isotopes 17O and 18O, are of importance in hydrology, to trace the geographic origin of Earth's waters. The heavy isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in rainwater (so-called meteoric water) are enriched as a function of the environmental temperature of the region in which the precipitation falls (and thus enrichment is related to mean latitude). The relative enrichment of the heavy isotopes in rainwater (as referenced to mean ocean water), when plotted against temperature falls predictably along a line called the global meteoric water line (GMWL). This plot allows samples of precipitation-originated water to be identified along with general information about the climate in which it originated. Evaporative and other processes in bodies of water, and also ground water processes, also differentially alter the ratios of heavy hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in fresh and salt waters, in characteristic and often regionally-distinctive ways.
Neutron scattering techniques particularly profit from availability of deuterated samples: The H and D cross sections are very distinct and different in sign, which allows contrast variation in such experiments. Further, a nuisance problem of ordinary hydrogen is its large incoherent neutron cross section, which is nil for D. The substitution of deuterium atoms for hydrogen atoms thus reduces scattering noise.
Hydrogen is an important and major component in all materials of organic chemistry and life science, but it barely interacts with X-rays. As hydrogen (and deuterium) interact strongly with neutrons, neutron scattering techniques, together with a modern deuteration facility, fills a niche in many studies of macromolecules in biology and many other areas.
Nuclear resonance spectroscopy
Deuterium is useful in hydrogen nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (proton NMR). NMR ordinarily requires compounds of interest to be analyzed as dissolved in solution. Because of deuterium's nuclear spin properties which differ from the light hydrogen usually present in organic molecules, NMR spectra of hydrogen/protium are highly differentiable from that of deuterium, and in practice deuterium is not "seen" by an NMR instrument tuned to light-hydrogen. Deuterated solvents (including heavy water, but also compounds like deuterated chloroform, CDCl3) are therefore routinely used in NMR spectroscopy, in order to allow only the light-hydrogen spectra of the compound of interest to be measured, without solvent-signal interference.
Suspicion of lighter element isotopes
The existence of nonradioactive isotopes of lighter elements had been suspected in studies of neon as early as 1913, and proven by mass spectrometry of light elements in 1920. The prevailing theory at the time, however, was that the isotopes were due to the existence of differing numbers of "nuclear electrons" in different atoms of an element. It was expected that hydrogen, with a measured average atomic mass very close to 1 u, the known mass of the proton, always had a nucleus composed of a single proton (a known particle), and therefore could not contain any nuclear electrons without losing its charge entirely. Thus, hydrogen could have no heavy isotopes.
Deuterium predicted and finally detected
It was first detected spectroscopically in late 1931 by Harold Urey, a chemist at Columbia University. Urey's collaborator, Ferdinand Brickwedde, distilled five liters of cryogenically produced liquid hydrogen to 1 mL of liquid, using the low-temperature physics laboratory that had recently been established at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). This concentrated the fraction of the mass-2 isotope of hydrogen to a degree that made its spectroscopic identification unambiguous.
Urey called the new isotope "deuterium", from the Greek deuteros (second), and the nucleus to be called "deuteron" or "deuton". Isotopes and new elements were traditionally given the name that their discoverer decided, but some British chemists, like Ernest Rutherford, wanted the isotope to be called "diplogen", from the Greek diploos (double), and the nucleus to be called diplon. The British magazine Nature also published a letter where only the denomination "diplogen" was used, perhaps annunciating that British could prefer that name over the name given by its discoverer. Urey and his two co-discoverers sent a letter to Nature saying that they had already considered that name and they had rejected it because "The compound NH1H2/2 would be called di-diplogen mono-hydrogen nitride", which would repeat the syllable "di." They also said that the British seemed to object on the basis that "neutron" and "deuton" could be confused with each other, and Urey pointed out that American workers were using the terms and they didn't seem to be having any such confusion.
Abundance, purification, and impact
The amount inferred for normal abundance of this heavy isotope of hydrogen was so small (only about 1 atom in 6400 hydrogen atoms in ocean water) that it had not noticeably affected previous measurements of (average) hydrogen atomic mass. This explained why it hadn't been experimentally suspected before. Urey was able to concentrate water to show partial enrichment of deuterium. Gilbert Newton Lewis prepared the first samples of pure heavy water in 1933.
The discovery of deuterium, coming before the discovery of the neutron in 1932, was an experimental shock to theory, but when the neutron was reported, making deuterium's existence more explainable, deuterium won Urey the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1934.
"Heavy water" experiments in World War II
Shortly before the war, Hans von Halban and Lew Kowarski moved their research on neutron moderation from France to England, smuggling the entire global supply of heavy water (which had been made in Norway) across in twenty-six steel drums.
During World War II, Nazi Germany was known to be conducting experiments using heavy water as moderator for a nuclear reactor design. Such experiments were a source of concern because they might allow them to produce plutonium for an atomic bomb. Ultimately it led to the Allied operation called the "Norwegian heavy water sabotage", the purpose of which was to destroy the Vemork deuterium production/enrichment facility in Norway. At the time this was considered important to the potential progress of the war.
After World War II ended, the Allies discovered that Germany was not putting as much serious effort into the program as had been previously thought. The Germans had completed only a small, partly built experimental reactor (which had been hidden away). By the end of the war, the Germans did not even have a fifth of the amount of heavy water needed to run the reactor, partially due to the Norwegian heavy water sabotage operation. However, even had the Germans succeeded in getting a reactor operational (as the U.S. did with a graphite reactor in late 1942), they would still have been at least several years away from development of an atomic bomb with maximal effort. The engineering process, even with maximal effort and funding, required about two and a half years (from first critical reactor to bomb) in both the U.S. and U.S.S.R, for example.
- Density: 0.180 kg/m3 at STP (0 °C, 101.325 kPa).
- Atomic weight: 2.0141017926 u.
- Mean abundance in ocean water (from VSMOW) 155.76 ±0.1 ppm (a ratio of 1 part per approximately 6420 parts), that is, about 0.015% of the atoms in a sample (by number, not weight)
Data at approximately 18 K for D2 (triple point):
- Liquid: 162.4 kg/m3
- Gas: 0.452 kg/m3
- Viscosity: 12.6 µPa·s at 300 K (gas phase)
- Specific heat capacity at constant pressure cp:
- Solid: 2,950 J/(kg·K)
- Gas: 5,200 J/(kg·K)
An antideuteron is the antiparticle of the nucleus of deuterium, consisting of an antiproton and an antineutron. The antideuteron was first produced in 1965 at the Proton Synchrotron at CERN and the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron at Brookhaven National Laboratory. A complete atom, with a positron orbiting the nucleus, would be called antideuterium, but as of 2005 antideuterium has not yet been created. The proposed symbol for antideuterium is D, that is, D with an overbar.
Deuterium atoms can be absorbed into a palladium (Pd) lattice. They are effectively solidified as an ultrahigh density deuterium lump (Pycnodeuterium) inside each octahedral space within the unit cell of the palladium host lattice. It was once reported that deuterium absorbed into palladium enabled nuclear cold fusion. However, cold fusion by this mechanism has not been generally accepted by the scientific community.
The existence of ultra-dense deuterium is suggested by experiment. This material, at a density of 140 kg/cm3, would be a million times more dense than regular deuterium, denser than the core of the Sun. This ultra-dense form of deuterium may facilitate achieving laser-induced fusion. Only minute amounts of ultra-dense deuterium have been produced thus far. At the moment, it is not known how the material is produced or if it remains stable without applied pressure, however, there is conjecture that it is possible to produce a new stable state of matter by compressing ultra-cold deuterium in a Rydberg state.
Deuterium is an
isotope of hydrogen
Decay product of:
See proton emission
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- Nuclear Data Evaluation Lab
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- Annotated bibliography for Deuterium from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
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