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One demonstrated fusion process is the so-called hydrogen bomb or thermonuclear bomb in which a fission atom bomb is used to initiate a fusion reaction. The atomic bomb is surrounded by a layer of lithium deuteride. Neutrons from the atomic explosion (fission) cause the lithium to be converted into helium, tritium, and energy, [link] . The atomic explosion also supplies the 50,000,000 °C temperature needed for the subsequent fusion of deuterium with tritium, [link] . So in-fact the hydrogen bomb is misnamed and it should be called a deuterium bomb.

The original calculations to model the hydrogen bomb were performed using ENIAC (short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) that was originally designed to generate tables of trajectories of shells fired from large artillery. The artillery firing tables were made by women mathematicians who were called “calculators” – hence the name used today. Built in 1946 ENIAC is often assumed to be the first programmable electronic computer, however, it was predated by the six Colossus machines that were used to successfully crack the German Enigma code as early as 1944. However, the existence of the Colossus machines was kept secret until 1975.


In the chemical laboratory deuterium compounds are commonly used in spectroscopy for:

  1. The assignment of resonances in IR, Raman, and NMR spectroscopy.
  2. As a non-proton containing solvent in 1 H NMR spectroscopy.

A description of these applications is given below.

Reaction mechanism and rate determination

Given the larger mass of deuterium over hydrogen there is an associated difference in the rate of reactions (see below) and therefore investigations using hydrogen and deuterium analogs can provide information as to reaction mechanisms.

The spectroscopic differences between hydrogen and deuterium can also be used as a tracer to uniquely determine the source of particular substituents. For example, the magnesium (or Grignard) reduction of a ketone yields upon hydrolysis the secondary alcohol. If the reaction is carried out in a deuterated solvent and H 2 O used for hydrolysis then the secondary carbon is deuterated, [link] . In contrast, if the reaction is carried out in a non-deuterated solvent and hydrolysis is accomplished with D 2 O then the deuterated alcohol is formed, [link] . These experiments define that the initial reduction occurs at the ketone’s α-carbon.

Given the following reactions and the isotope distribution of the products suggest the reaction mechanism.

Differences between hydrogen and deuterium

Properties that depend on nuclei properties

The nuclear magnetic moment of an atomic nucleus arises from the spins of the protons and neutrons within the nucleus. As a consequence the magnetic moment for hydrogen and deuterium are very different and hence the conditions for detection by NMR are very different. Thus, in observing the 1 H NMR spectrum of a compound not only are the deuterium atoms not observed, but the coupling is now H-D rather than H-H ( [link] ).

An example of the differences in the 1 H NMR spectrum upon deuterium substitution.

Deuterium is better at scattering neutrons than hydrogen. The H and D cross sections are very distinct and different in sign, which allows contrast variation in such experiments. Hydrogen’s low electron density makes it difficult to determine its position by X-ray diffraction methods, neutron diffraction methods allow for highly accurate structure determination. Hydrogen can be seen by neutron diffraction and scattering, however, it has a large incoherent neutron cross-section. This is nil for deuterium and thus delivers much clearer signals may be obtained for deuterated samples. Neutron scattering of deuterated samples is indispensable for many studies of macromolecules in biology.

Properties that depend on mass

The difference in mass between hydrogen and deuterium obviously results in a difference in molecular mass of their analogous compounds. This difference can be used for analysis by mass spectrometry, but it also results in different densities of compounds. For example, the density of H 2 O at 25 °C is 0.997 g/cm 3 , while the density of D 2 O at 25 °C is 1.104 g/cm 3 .

The vibrational frequency for a diatomic molecule, H-X, can be defined by the equation:

where f H-X is the H-X bond force constant, and µ H-X is the reduced mass.

If substitute H for D the D-X force constant is the same as the H-X force constant, but the reduced mass is twice the value for the H-X bond. As a result the ratio of the vibrational frequency of an H-X bond to that of the analogous D-X bond is given by the following equation.

With the change in vibrational energy there is concomitant change in the bond strength.

Thus, the rate of reactions will be faster for hydrogen derivative than the deuterium analog. The ratio of the rate constants will be dependant on the involvement of H-X bond breaking or forming in the rate limiting step (the slowest reaction step within the overall reaction mechanism). When an H-X bond is made or broken in the rate limiting step, then the ratio of the rate constants upon deuterium substitution will be:

This is known as the primary isotope effect . In this case where H-X bond breaking or forming is not part of the rate limiting step, then the isotope effect will be much smaller and is known as a secondary isotope effect .

The position of equilibrium reactions that involve hydrogen exchange, [link] , will be effected by the presence of deuterium to favor the deuterium being concentrated in the more stable bond. This is the basis of the concentration of HOD from HSD and water, [link] .


  • M. B. Power, S. G. Bott, J. L. Atwood, and A. R. Barron. J. Am. Chem. Soc. , 1990, 112 , 3446.
  • A. S. Borovik and A. R. Barron, Main Group Chem . 2005, 4 , 135.

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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