Sunscreen for dancing molecules

Since life is mostly based on water, our molecules are moving, vibrating and somersaulting in a liquid environment. But electron microscopy—a technique to study a static version of this nanoworld—has been almost impossible ...

Precise deuteration using heavy water

NUS chemists have developed a more effective method using heavy water splitting to swap hydrogen atoms on organic molecules with their heavier cousins (deuterium) for pharmaceutical applications.

Smallest ever sieve separates atoms

Researchers at The University of Manchester have discovered that the naturally occurring gaps between individual layers of two-dimensional materials can be used as a sieve to separate different atoms.

New strategy for isotope separation with flexible porous material

A new study by an international team of researchers affiliated with UNIST has succeeded in developing a novel deuterium separation method using a special class of metal organic frameworks (MOFs) whose pore dimensions change ...

Developing smart isotope separation system

An international team of researchers, affiliated with UNIST has presented a novel hydrogen isotope separation system based on a porous metal organic framework (MOF). The isolation of deuterium from a physico-chemically almost ...

New laser technique improves neutron yield

(—A team of researchers from several institutions in China has developed a new way to produce neutrons that they claim improves on conventional methods by a factor of 100. In their paper published in the journal ...

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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.

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