Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, Ricardo Amils, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, William M. Irvine, Daniele L. Pinti, Michel Viso


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-11274-4_417



Hydrogen, Isotope


Deuterium (Symbol: 2H, earlier, D) (from the Greek: δεύτερος (deúteros) = “the second”) is a stable isotope of hydrogen with a relative atomic mass of 1.00782519 mu and a nuclear spin of 1. Mass spectrometry and various scattering experiments reveal two elemental particles in its atomic nucleus, a positively charged proton and an uncharged neutron. These observations gave rise to its name. Other natural isotopes of hydrogen are Protium (1H) (one proton, 2.01410222 mu, nuclear spin ½) and Tritium (3H) (one proton two neutrons, 3.01610497 mu, nuclear spin ½, radioactive) (Greenwood and Earnshaw 1984). Because of its mass, deuterium is also called “heavy hydrogen.”


Deuterium was discovered in 1931 by Harold C. Urey, who received the Noble Prize in chemistry (1934) for this finding.


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe (ca. 76%). The average deuterium-to-hydrogenratio in the universe...

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References and Further Reading

  1. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Inc (1995) Limnol Oceanogr 40(6): 1182 http://www.aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_40/issue_6/1182.pdf
  2. Greenwood N, Earnshaw A (1984) Chemistry of the elements. Pergamon Press, Elmsford, NYGoogle Scholar
  3. Lellouch E, Bézard B, Fouchet T, Feuchtgruber H, Encrenaz T, De Graauw T (2001) The deuterium abundance in Jupiter and Saturn from ISO-SWS observations. Astron Astrophys 670:610–622. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20010259ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Physics and ChemistryUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark