What is Heavy Water?
We are back with another exciting story for your chemistry tuition. Your chemistry tuition can come up with interesting facts about chemistry. Everyone of you knows about water. We know that ordinary water, the one we use every day is composed of two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen and can be symbolized by H2O, it’s chemical formula. But, have you got any idea about heavy water? Today in your chemistry tuition we will talk about heavy water. In heavy water the hydrogen of ordinary water gets replaced by deuterium, which is an isotope of hydrogen. It has the chemical formula D2O. In fact, hydrogen has three isotopes: Protium (ordinary hydrogen), deuterium (heavy hydrogen) and the third one being tritium. The nucleus of Protium has only one proton, whereas the nucleus of deuterium possesses one proton and neutron each. Subsequently, the nucleus of tritium contains two neutrons, along with the single proton. In nature 99.85% of hydrogen belongs to protium and only about 0.015% as deuterium. The tritium is present is trace amounts in naturally occurring hydrogen (1 part in 107) and is a radioactive compound. Heavy water (deuterium oxide) is produced due to a combination of deuterium with oxygen.
In natural sources of water for every 6760 parts of ordinary water, there exists one part of heavy water. The molecular weight of H2O is 18 while that of D2O is 20. The density, boiling and freezing point of D2O are higher than that of H2O.
Harold Clayton Urey, an American Chemist discovered D2O in 1931 and got the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in 1934. A few millilitres of pure heavy water were prepared by Lewis and Donald in 1933 by constant electrolysis of water for a long duration. Electrolysis of ordinary water for prolonged period gives rise to heavy water as the gas produced during electrolysis in cathode is pure hydrogen and the residual water present in the solution is deuterium oxide. It can be produced at an industrial scale.
Heavy Water is specifically used in nuclear reactors as moderator to slow down the fast moving neutrons. In laboratories, it can be used as an isotopic tracer and in deuterium and other compound preparation.
We hope you enjoyed this lesson from chemistry tuition. We will be back with more such interesting findings in our next chemistry tuition.
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