The future of our world heavily relies on the fact whether we are able to find alternative fuels to our fast diminishing conventional resources. According to one such theory known as Hydrogen Economy, that fuel could be hydrogen! Let us learn more about hydrogen as an alternative fuel and heavy water.
Hydrogen has three naturally occurring isotopes, namely Protium, Deuterium, and Tritium. While 2 are stable one is radioactive. One of the stable isotopes is Deuterium. It contains one proton and one electron in its nucleus (which is know as a deuteron). It is the Hydrogen 2 isotope and we denote it as 2H or D.
Heavy water is deuterium oxide i.e D2O. Here water contains a deuterium atom instead of that of hydrogen. In fact, deuterium is often referred to as Heavy Hydrogen. And while it looks exactly like normal water, heavy water has a few different chemical and physical properties.
The name Heavy water comes from the fact that it is quite simply heavier than water. Deuterium is almost twice as heavy as protium and also less stable. D2O has the same qualities as water of being tasteless and odorless. However, its boiling point is slightly heavier than that of ordinary water.
Is Heavy Water Safe to Consume?
Heavy water is not radioactive since deuterium is not a radioactive isotope. It is not toxic either. However, this does not mean D2O is safe to consume. If you consume it in small quantities it will not affect you and you may not even realize that you have consumed it.
However, in large quantities, D2O can be quite harmful and possibly lethal. Since it is much heavier than normal water your cells will not react with it normally. The first signs after a large consumption of heavy water would probably be the dizziness and lack of balance. This could be followed by many medical complications. If 20% of the water in your body was heavy water, it will be harmful to your health.
Uses of Heavy Water
- Heavy Water is used in nuclear power plants. In some plants, we use it to cool down fuel rods, but this is now an outdated method. We also use Heavy water as a neutron moderator as it does not absorb neutrons easily and slows down neurons.
- It also finds a use in the production of tritium
- And also in organic chemistry to produce Deuterium
- Also finds some applications in the fields of biology and medicine
It is no secret that the world currently is facing an energy crisis. Non-renewable energy sources such as oil, coal etc are depleting globally. And renewable energy sources are still developing and not able to meet our energy demands fast enough. So scientists from around the world have come up with a vision, to use hydrogen as an energy fuel! This concept is known as Hydrogen Economy.
The term was coined by John Bockrics who worked for General Motors in 1970. It was then understood to be a revolutionary solution to all our energy troubles. Since then a lot of development has taken place in this field. Technological advancements in the last few decades have made this vision very close to possible.
The most primary way to implement hydrogen economy is via transport vehicles. This will be our first step into the future where hydrogen can be used as an efficient energy source. Fuel cell electric vehicles are the main focus of hydrogen economy currently. Now let us look at a few advantages of hydrogen as a fuel over its conventional counterparts.
- First and foremost advantage is that it is a non-polluting energy source. The only by-product is Water.
- Hydrogen, in fact, has a higher efficiency than gasoline, oil, petrol etc
- They operate silently, unlike those engines which work on internal combustion
- Production of hydrogen energy can happen anywhere with water and access to electricity. This helps with grid distribution
- They also have a low heat transmission making them an ideal fuel source
Solved Question for You
Q: In a hydrogen economy, the energy required for automobiles or electrical energy is obtained from the reaction between _____ and oxygen.
- none of the above
Sol: The correct answer is option “A”. In a hydrogen economy, the energy required for automobiles or electrical energy is obtained from the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This eliminates the use of carbon-based fossil fuels. It reduces the emission of carbon dioxide gas. Hydrogen acts as energy carrier as a substitute for petroleum reserves that are in short supply.
Q: In nuclear reactors, heavy water is used as a:
- All of the above
Sol: The correct option is “C”. With the discovery of nuclear fission in late 1938 and the need for a neutron moderator that captured few neutrons, heavy water became a component of early nuclear energy research. Since then, heavy water has been an essential component in some types of reactors, both those that generate power and those designed to produce isotopes for nuclear weapons. Most modern reactors use enriched uranium with normal light water (H2O) as the moderator.