Is deuterium flammable
Hydrogen is the simplest element. The atomic nucleus of ordinary hydrogen consists of only one proton and is surrounded by a single electron. This means that hydrogen is the only element in which the orbitals are undisturbed. In all other elements these have to be modified because of the mutual influence of the electrons.
Hydrogen is very light and was therefore used as a lifting gas in airships in the past. But it is also highly flammable, which could have been one of the reasons for the "Hindenburg" fire disaster in 1937. Hydrogen burns completely with oxygen to form water, so there are no toxic exhaust gases. That is why hydrogen is being discussed as a clean fuel.
Besides "normal" hydrogen there are two other hydrogen isotopes. A nucleus made up of a proton and a neutron is just as stable as the simple proton nucleus but has twice the mass. This form of hydrogen is called deuterium or heavy hydrogen (Picture on the left). A nucleus with one proton and two neutrons is not stable, it has a half-life of twelve years and then decays into an isobaric helium-3 nucleus via beta decay. Since this form of hydrogen can exist for a few years, it also has a name. They are called Tritium or super heavy hydrogen (on the right in the picture).
Chemically, deuterium and tritium are identical to hydrogen, since the electron is only attracted by the one proton in the nucleus, but does not feel anything from the neutron. Physically, the three types of hydrogen differ in their atomic weight. Deuterium is about twice and tritium three times as heavy as hydrogen.
It is not uncommon for there to be several types of an element. The special thing about hydrogen is that you often use different symbols: H for hydrogen (Latin: hydrogenium), D for deuterium and T for tritium. This is because with hydrogen, the relative differences in core weight are more significant than with most other elements. Water with deuterium instead of hydrogen atoms is called heavy water and has measurably different properties than ordinary water. Water with tritium instead of hydrogen atoms is called super heavy water.
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Last change: December 11, 2010
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