Heavy Water

  • Thread starter mfeneley
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello everyone. I am trying to isolate heavy water from regular tap water. It turns out to be much more difficult than I expected. Anyone have some advice or a relatively inexpensive method of doing this?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I doubt such thing as a "small scale inexpensive method" exists.
  • #3
Well, heavy water is about 11% denser than normal water, but its not as simple as siphoning off the bottom level of standing water.
  • #4
Gold Member
atw (according to Wiki):

The HDO may be separated from regular water by distillation or electrolysis and also by various chemical exchange processes, all of which exploit a kinetic isotope effect. (For more information about the isotopic distribution of deuterium in water, see Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water.)

The difference in mass between the two hydrogen isotopes translates into a difference in the zero-point energy and thus into a slight difference in the speed at which the reaction proceeds. Once HDO becomes a significant fraction of the water, heavy water will become more prevalent as water molecules trade hydrogen atoms very frequently. To produce pure heavy water by distillation or electrolysis requires a large cascade of stills or electrolysis chambers, and consumes large amounts of power, so the chemical methods are generally preferred. The most important chemical method is the Girdler sulfide process.

An alternative process[15], patented by Graham M. Keyser, uses lasers to selectively dissociate deuterated hydrofluorocarbons to form deuterium fluoride, which can then be separated by physical means. Although the energy consumption for this process is much less than for the Girdler sulfide process, this method is currently uneconomical due to the expense of procuring the necessary hydrofluorocarbons.
  • #5
Problem is there is no meaningful amount heavy water in tap water. If the water had say 10% heavy water in it I bet there are loads of processes that would work but to extract meaningful amounts from normal tap water is not feasible.
  • #6
Gold Member
Problem is there is no meaningful amount heavy water in tap water.
According to that same Wiki article, normal water contains about one in 3200 molecules of heavy water. That's pretty meaningful.

To get a millilitre of heavy water, you would need to process a mere 3.2 litres.

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