Deuterium vs Tritium
Hydrogen is the first and the smallest element in the periodic table, which is denoted as H. It has one electron and one proton. It is categorized under group 1 and period 1 in the periodic table because of its electron configuration: 1s1. Hydrogen can take up an electron to form a negatively charged ion, or can easily donate the electron to produce a positively charged proton or share the electron to make covalent bonds. Because of this ability, hydrogen is present in a large number of molecules, and it is a highly abundant element in the earth. Hydrogen has three isotopes named as protium-1H (no neutrons), deuterium-2H (one neutron) and tritium- 3H (two neutrons). Protium is the most abundant among three having about 99% relative abundance.
What is Deuterium?
Deuterium is one of the isotopes of hydrogen. It is a stable isotope with 0.015% natural abundance. There is a proton and a neutron in the nucleus of deuterium. Therefore, the mass number of it is two, and the atomic number is one. This is also known as the heavy hydrogen. Deuterium is shown as 2H. However, most commonly it is represented with D. deuterium can exist as a diatomic gaseous molecule with the chemical formula D2. However, the possibility of joining two D atoms in nature is low due to the lower abundance of deuterium. Therefore, mostly deuterium is bonded to a 1H atom making a gas called HD (hydrogen deuteride). Two deuterium atoms can bind with an oxygen to form the water analog D2O, which is also known as heavy water. Molecules with deuterium show different chemical and physical properties than the hydrogen analog of them. For example, deuterium can exhibit kinetic isotope effect. Deuterated compounds show characteristic differences in NMR, IR and mass spectroscopy, therefore, can be identified using those methods. Deuterium has a spin of one. Therefore, in NMR, deuterium coupling gives a triplet. It absorbs a different IR frequency than hydrogen in IR spectroscopy. Due to large mass difference, in mass spectroscopy, deuterium can be distinguished from hydrogen.
What is Tritium?
Tritium is the isotope of hydrogen in which the mass number is three. Therefore, the nucleus of tritium has one proton and two neutrons. It only exists in trace amount, in the nature. Because of this reason, it has to be produced artificially for the practical usage. Tritium is a radioactive isotope (this is the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen). It has a half-life of 12 years, and it decays by emitting a beta particle to produce helium-3. The atomic mass of tritium is 3.0160492. Tritium exists as a gas (HT) at standard temperature and pressure. It also can form the oxide (HTO), which is known as the “tritiated water.” Tritium is used in making of nuclear weapons. Further, it is used as a tracer in biological and environmental studies.
What is the difference between Deuterium and Tritium?
• Deuterium nucleus has one neutron, whereas tritium nucleus has two neutrons.
• The atomic mass of tritium is 3.0160492, and the atomic mass of deuterium is 2.014102.
• Tritium is radioactive, whereas deuterium is not.
• Deuterium is abundant in nature compared to tritium.