Difference Between Deuterium and Hydrogen

Main Difference – Deuterium vs Hydrogen

Hydrogen is the first element in the periodic table having atomic number 1. This means hydrogen has one proton in its nucleus. Deuterium is a stable isotope of hydrogen. Since isotopes are atoms of the same element having the same number of protons and different numbers of neutrons, both hydrogen and deuterium are composed of one proton per each nucleus. The main difference between Deuterium and Hydrogen is that Deuterium atoms contain a neutron in their nucleus whereas Hydrogen atoms do not contain any neutrons in their nucleus.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Hydrogen
      – Definition, Properties, Applications
2. What is Deuterium
      – Definition, Properties, Applications
3. What are the Similarities Between Deuterium and Hydrogen
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Deuterium and Hydrogen
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Atomic Mass, Atomic number, Deuterium, Deuteron, Hydrogen, Isotope, Neutron, ProtonDifference Between Deuterium and Hydrogen - Comparison Summary

What is Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a chemical element with the atomic number 1. It is the first element of the periodic table of elements. It is composed of a single proton in its nucleus. The standard atomic mass of hydrogen is 1.00794 u.  Hydrogen is the lightest element present on earth. The hydrogen atom can be represented as 11H.

Main Difference - Deuterium vs Hydrogen

Figure 1: Chemical Structure of Hydrogen.

Hydrogen element has three major isotopes. They are Protium, Deuterium, and Tritium. Protium is the most abundant form among these three isotopes. The abundance of it is about 99%. Therefore, it is considered as normal hydrogen. Protium atom is composed of a proton and it has no neutrons. One electron can be observed when it is not in a bond. The electron configuration of hydrogen is 1s1. It has only one s orbital and it has no p orbitals.

Hydrogen is most commonly found as either H2 gas or in the liquid form as water (H2O). When hydrogen is in H2 gaseous form, it is highly flammable and can undergo combustion. Therefore, it is used in the processing of fossil fuels. Hydrogen is also used as the major reactant in the production of ammonia. Another important application of Hydrogen is its use as a coolant for generators in power stations.

What is Deuterium

Deuterium is a stable isotope of hydrogen element. It contains a nucleus having one proton and one neutron. Outside the nucleus, deuterium has one electron. The atomic number of deuterium is 1. The atomic mass of deuterium is about 2.014 u. Deuterium can be given in symbols as, 2H.

Difference Between Deuterium and Hydrogen

Figure 2: Chemical Structure of Deuterium

The abundance of deuterium on earth’s crust is about 0.015%. Since deuterium is stable, it is not a radioactive element. It is also called heavy hydrogen because it is heavier than normal hydrogen. Pure deuterium gas is rare to find. Most of the times, HD (H-D) gas can be found rather than D2 gas.

Heavy water is a form of water made out of D2O molecules instead of H2O molecules. It is called heavy water because D2O is heavier than H2O. The molar mass of D2O is about 20 g/mol whereas the molar mass of H2O is 18 g/mol. Heavy water is used as a source of deuterium for synthesis reactions in organic chemistry.

The nucleus of deuterium is called deuteron. The mass of this nucleus is approximately equal to 2.013 u. Deuterium is stable with an odd number of protons and an odd number of neutrons. Most nuclei with an odd number of protons or neutrons are unstable and undergo beta decay due to this instability.

Deuterium is used in fission reactors in the form of heavy water. Here, it is used to slow down neutrons. Deuterium is also used in proton NMR spectroscopy as CDCl3 in order to distinguish the spectra of light hydrogen from the hydrogen in the solvent.

Similarities Between Deuterium and Hydrogen

  • Both hydrogen and Deuterium are composed of one proton and one electron.
  • The atomic number of both equals 1.
  • Both types of atoms have only s orbitals.
  • Both atoms can be found in forms of water.

Difference Between Deuterium and Hydrogen

Definition

Deuterium: Deuterium is a stable isotope of hydrogen element.

Hydrogen: Hydrogen is a chemical element with the atomic number 1.

Atomic Mass

Deuterium:  The atomic mass of Deuterium is 2.014 u.

Hydrogen: The atomic mass of Hydrogen is 1.00794 u.

Elemental Symbol

Deuterium: Deuterium can be represented as either D or 21H.

Hydrogen: Hydrogen can be represented as either H or 11H.

Natural Abundance

Deuterium: The abundance of Deuterium is about 0.015%.

 Hydrogen: The abundance of Hydrogen is about 99%.

Summary

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen. Since Protium is the most abundant isotope of hydrogen, it is considered as normal hydrogen. The abundance of Protium is about 99%. However, in addition to being isotopes, there is a distinct difference between Deuterium and Hydrogen.

References:

1. Helmenstine, Ph.D. Anne Marie. “Interesting Deuterium Facts.” ThoughtCo. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 25 July 2017. 
2. “Hydrogen – Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table.” Royal Society of Chemistry – Advancing excellence in the chemical sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 25 July 2017. 

Image Courtesy:

“Blausen 0526 Hydrogen-1Atom” By BruceBlaus – Own work (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
“Blausen 0527 Hydrogen-2 Deuterium” Av BruceBlaus – Eget verk (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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