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Last updated date: 09th Apr 2024
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Deuterium - Detailly Explained

Heavy hydrogen, often known as deuterium, is one of the stable isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium gets its name from the Greek word deuterons, which means "second." 

The stable isotopic variation of hydrogen gas has only one proton and one neutron. Protium, which does not have a neutron, makes up 99.9% of naturally occurring marine hydrogen, while Deuterium makes up only 0.02 percent.

Harold C. Urey, an American scientist, and his coworkers Ferdinand G. Brickwedde and George M. Murphy discovered deuterium in 1931. Urey anticipated that the vapor pressures of molecular hydrogen (H2) and a corresponding molecule with one hydrogen atom substituted by deuterium (HD) would differ, allowing them to be separated by liquid hydrogen distillation.

What is Deuterium?

Deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen, is one of the isotopes of hydrogens that is stable. The name deuterium is derived from the Greek word deuterons, which means 'second'.  The nucleus of the hydrogen-deuterium atom is known as a deuteron, containing one proton and one neutron. Protium does not have a neutron. Deuterium has a natural abundance of about one atom in between 6420 hydrogens in the oceans. Thus, deuterium takes account for approximately 0.02% (0.03% by mass) of all the hydrogens that occur naturally in the oceans, and protium takes account for the rest of 99.98%.

Deuterium Oxide

Deuterium oxide is an isotopic form of water which is always stable and non-radioactive. This element contains two atoms of deuterium (D) and one atom of oxygen, with DNA-labelling activity. It is also known as heavy water. It is called heavy water due to the presence of deuterium in it, which is a heavier hydrogen isotope as compared to the hydrogen isotope (protium), which is present in normal water.

The heavier hydrogen isotope brings out the nuclear properties of water. The increase in the mass of the water due to deuterium makes the water slightly different from normal water in terms of physical and chemical properties.

Facts, Properties and Uses


Deuterium has several properties as listed below:

  1. Deuterium forms chemical bonds that are stronger than regular hydrogen.The triple point, boiling point, vapor pressure, heat of fusion, and heat of evaporation of deuterium are all much higher than those of common hydrogen.

  2. The gas deuterium is colorless. When ionized, however, it gives off a distinctive pink hue.

  3. Because of the stronger connections, heavy water has a density of 10.6 times that of conventional water (1.624 g/cm3). In standard water, heavy water ice sinks, but it floats in heavy water.

  4. Heavy water has a higher viscosity than regular water. (12.6 μPa·s at 300 K).


  • Deuterated water is used in Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.

  • It is used as a moderator in nuclear reactors.

  • The metabolic rate of the human body can be determined by using it.

  • For tracking the process of Photosynthesis in plants, it is used as the primary tracer element.

  • By using Deuterium in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, magnetic field stabilization is being maintained.

  • It is used in the determination of the isotopologue of various organic compounds.

  • In heavy water form, it is used in Infrared Spectroscopy.

  • There is an important aspect of Nuclear fusion reaction known as Tritium. It is controlled by using Deuterium.


Atomic weight = 2.014

Molecular weight = 4.0282 g/mol

Symbolic representation = 2H

Boiling point = (-)249o C

Melting point = (-)254o C

  • Delton or Deuteron is the name for a single Deuterium nucleus. Deuterium has no radioactive effects due to its minute presence among the naturally occurring Hydrogen form.

  • It is naturally flammable and emits a pale blue flame.

  • It is non-toxic, however, it can deplete oxygen levels in the atmosphere, resulting in asphyxiation.

  • It is also referred to as Hydrogen 2 and Deuterons.

  • It has no color and odor.

  • By nature it is non-corrosive.

  • When the temperature is low, it is slightly soluble in water (cold water)

FAQs on Deuterium

1. Can You Drink Heavy Water?

It is a known fact that heavy water is always related to something that is dangerous and harmful to human health, such as nuclear reactors and radioactive materials. However, heavy water, which is pure, is not at all radioactive and is not so harmful. Human beings can drink pure heavy water but in small quantities. If this water is consumed in large quantities for a long period of time, then it can cause damage to the human body. Consumption of heavy water in large quantities can cause poisoning causing symptoms like dizziness and loss of blood pressure.

2. What are the Chemical Properties of Heavy Water?

The chemical properties of heavy water are as follows.

  • The isotopes of hydrogen can show different chemical behaviours in a matter of time, which depends on the difference in the atomic masses.

  • A high quantity of deuterium can change the solvent properties of the water that can cause damage to the biological system.

  • When normal water is compared to heavy water, the normal water dissociates to some extent.

  • In a D2O sample, the concentration of D+ ions is generally lower than the concentration of H+ions in an H2O sample. This is possible at a specific temperature.

3. Explain heavy water and its uses?

Heavy water is created by replacing the hydrogen atoms in water with their heavier relative, deuterium. It has the appearance and flavor of normal water.

In nuclear reactors, heavy water is utilized as a neutron moderator. For the production of Deuterium, it is needed.

Deuterium oxide is used to create isotopologues of various chemical molecules. In IR (infrared) spectroscopy, heavy water is used instead of ordinary water.

4. What are the reasons that deuterium is stable?

Each deuterium atom has one proton and one neutron inside of it. "Heavy hydrogen" is also a name for deuterium, because each atom of deuterium has one extra neutron. Because deuterium is an isotope, it is not radioactive. 

Both deuterium and protium are stable isotopes of hydrogen that aren't going to break down or get lost.

Protons and neutrons have the same spin and isospin, which are both equal to half. For two nucleons, it is the only stable state.

5. Why heavy water is used to make a nuclear bomb?

As World War II drew to a close, scientists in both Germany and Great Britain understood that heavy water might be utilised in this manner to produce nuclear bombs. 

Heavy water is used to convert ordinary uranium into plutonium, which is one of the easily split or "fissile" elements that is used to ignite nuclear weapons.

The fuel rods are immersed in water within the reactor vessel, which acts as a coolant and moderator. The moderator helps slow down the neutrons produced by fission to keep the chain reaction running.

It is symbolized as D2O.

6. What happens if you consume a large amount of heavy water?

You should not be concerned about heavy water poisoning because it exists naturally in around one water molecule out of every twenty million, which equates to approximately five grams of naturally occurring heavy water in your body.

Even if you drank a lot of heavy water, you'd still be getting enough of ordinary water through your food intake.

However, even though heavy water is not radioactive, it is not completely safe to drink. You need to take care of any infection that occurs.

7. What is radioactive material and how does radioactive waste harm the environment?

Radionuclides (also known as radioactive materials) are a type of chemical in which the atom's nucleus is unstable. 

They maintain their stability by altering the nucleus (spontaneous fission, emission of alpha particles, or conversion of neutrons to protons or the reverse).

The uranium mining process emits a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When new nuclear power facilities are created, carbon dioxide is also emitted into the atmosphere. 

Finally, the transportation of radioactive waste emits carbon dioxide which is harmful to the environment.

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