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Any Way to Easily Obtain Deuterium? Answered


I've had an interest in how physicists obtain deuterium for their experiments (especially those dealing with nuclear fusion).  I know it comes in small quantities in water, in the form of deuterium oxide ('heavy water') .  It also comes in the form of 'heavy methane' also.  I've looked at several patents dealing with extracting deuterium from such sources.  Is their any do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques that could use every day materials to obtain deuterium?

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ronaldblair (author)2016-07-07

I have been using a freezing process in my outside refrigerator- you see deuterium freezes at 39 degrees- so the deuterium will freeze first- -it takes a while and you may not et 99.% but you can get more than 1 part in 6 thousand-

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bigboy4006 (author)2010-11-14

I had suspicions that obtaining deuterium would be difficult, as you describe kelsey. I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

As for looking for sources of lithium deuteride, I haven't made any searches online yet. I've been putting it off hoping that I could obtain it from water, which I know has only a small amount of deuterium in it. I guess I just wanted to have my suspicions confirmed.

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kelseymh (author)bigboy40062010-11-14

It never hurts to ask, and this is definitely not a trivial question :-) At first glance, the factor of two in mass ought to make separation easier; theoretically, easy enough for DIY, given that that's how it was done originally. However, I think the 1:70,000 concentration is what kills you in the end, at least, if you want to end up with more than just "detectable" quantities.

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bigboy4006 (author)kelseymh2010-11-15

That's the problem kelsey. I wish there was an easier way to get a higher concentration or yield of deuterium. I know of no known source that's a high yield of deuterium. I just wish there was a way to get a higher amount of that gas.

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kelseymh (author)bigboy40062010-11-15

Well, you can't argue with nature. You're limited by the natural abundance.

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bigboy4006 (author)kelseymh2010-11-15

That's true. Just wondering if there's a way to irradiate hydrogen with neutrons to get deuterium though. Just a thought...

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kelseymh (author)bigboy40062010-11-15

Not in any DIY way, for several good reasons. I'm a professional particle physicist, not a nuclear engineer, so what follows may be oversimplified; you should research primary source information.

Neutron sources are far more dangerous than other radiation sources. With x-rays, gamma rays, and even electron beams, the damage you can inflict on yourself is limited to the surface, and mostly limited to the time that you're actually being irradiated. Alpha sources (such as Am-241) are extremely safe, because they can be shielded very easily -- aluminum foil is enough. Neutrons, however, are very penetrating because they don't have electric charge. Once they thermalize (have kinetic energies of a few eV) they are easily captured by nuclei.

Changing the number of neutrons in a given isotope almost always makes it radioactive -- first, because the new nucleus is in an excited state (so you get gammas or x-rays), and second because the nuclear structure is now different. You might get the neutron kicked out again, or a beta, or an alpha. In any event, you now have a radioactive material with a non-zero half-life. Even after you "turn off the beam," you still have to deal with that residual radiation.

Trying to make deuterium by colliding neutrons with protons (which is basically what you're suggesting), is not going to work. The deuterium is just barely in a bound state at all (neither diprotons nor dineutrons are stable!). The kinetic energy you'd get from any kind of neutron source is higher than the deuteron's binding energy, which means what you'll get instead is just an elastic scatter. Nice for doing physics experiments, not nice for making deuterium.

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bigboy4006 (author)kelseymh2010-11-16

I'm not a physicist myself, but I do have a grasp on physics. I thought there would be a danger using neutrons. I've read a little about neutron bombs and their destruction; they kill off living things while leaving everything else intact. I suspect such destruction to any living thing near a source of radiated neutrons.

As for deuterium, I never realized that it was unstable. I still have a lot of learning to do. Sounds like you're a good source of such information kelsey. I'm glad that you have the credentials and the knowledge to know whether such ideas do work. I'm always trying to gather information and learn more - I tend to have an insatiable curiosity and thirst for such knowledge. I wish I had your talents as a particle physicist - unfortunately, I've always had troubles with mathematics. I need a lot of practice to get better.

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kelseymh (author)bigboy40062010-11-16

Deuterium itself isn't unstable; a better description would be "barely stable." The binding energy is just 2.2 MeV, or about 1 MeV per nucleon. Most nuclei (from carbon on up) have around 8 MeV/A binding energy. If you try to shoot protons and neutrons at each other, in hopes of getting them to stick, it's very unlikely to happen. Whereas, if you shoot a neutron at almost any other nucleus it'll get sucked in pretty quickly.

Unlike many other subjects, I can highly recommend the straight physics and chemistry articles on Wikipedia. They tend to be edited by grad students or post-docs in the field in question, so the information is quite good. You're also likely to find decent references to either primary sources or review articles.

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bigboy4006 (author)kelseymh2010-11-16

Just a misunderstanding on my part kelsey. But the information does help. I often read Wikipedia, and I've found it to be a very reliable source. I'm not surprised that it's been edited by students and post-docs. It been helpful in many areas I've researched - not just chemistry and physics.

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kelseymh (author)bigboy40062010-11-16

I find some of the non-science stuff, especially the "controversial" political topics, to be really flaky.

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lemonie (author)bigboy40062010-11-14

You could get it out of tap-water, but it would be prohibitorialy-expensive.

L

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Kiteman (author)bigboy40062010-11-14

(A little hint - if you are replying to a specific person or post, click the reply button in the bottom-right corner of every comment posted.)

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kelseymh (author)2010-11-13

Did you read the Federation of American Scientists' discussion of the process? My suspicion is that if it were really so easy to do, then deuterium wouldn't be as expensive as it is (labs would make their own rather that purchasing it). But that's just a guess.

I just looked at the Wikipedia article about GS (H2S/H2O) production. The article claims that deuterium production is a 1:340000 process. If that number is accurate, really only industrial scale production is adequate for macroscopic quantities (you'd get less than 3 micrograms of heavy water per liter of input).

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Arano (author)kelseymh2010-11-14

Not only the wikipedia article claims that ratio, it's also noted in the last sentence of the link you posted.

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kelseymh (author)Arano2010-11-14

Good catch! And, that sentence mentioned something I hadn't noticed, that the production process at the Ontario plant is only 20% efficient.

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Arano (author)2010-11-14

I learned last semester that during electrolysis, in the water used for the process the relative amount of deuterium increases, because its less reactive. so after a huge amount of water is split into h2 and o2 you will have a certain amount of heavy water.

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lemonie (author)2010-11-14

You can get heavy water as kelsey says, but LiD is another source.

L

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kelseymh (author)2010-11-13

The easiest DIY method may be to use your credit card, at US$1/gram, then use an electrolysis cell.

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