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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

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.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
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Akash Reply
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characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
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what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Smarajit Reply
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