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New Contributor III

deuterium complications

Saving time in a bottle


An accidental experiment


Place 100 ml of USP 70% isopropyl alcohol made with deionized water into an amber reagent glass bottle.  Cap bottle.

Let 100 ml of nitric acid approximately 47%w/v made with deionized water sit over night.

Remove cap and pour nitric into bottle.  Observe that no evidence of a reaction takes place.  Use protective gear in a well ventilated lab.  Note that a strong reaction will follow.  Cap bottle and withdraw to a safe distance.  Preferably behind a door with a fire and protective rating.  Note a person was briefly overcome by fumes and fire the first time the experiment took place and was taken away by paramedics.

The ceramic cap will break and a flame and vapor cloud will erupt but bottle should not be harmed.  Anything directly above will have paint etc removed in a round pattern.


It is believed that little acid/base reaction takes place since deionized water was used.  Note preparation of the nitric acid involves a turbulent exothermic process in which deuterium replaces hydrogen and must be allowed to continue to completion over night.  A similar process is presumed to happen in the preparation of the alcohol though it may not be as exothermic.


It is also believed that hydrogen peroxide is formed and reacts with some form of available carbon.  It is my belief that a catalytic form between nitric and alcohol fuses deuterium forming an intermediate and destroying alcohol making carbon available to the peroxide causing a side reaction in addition to other reactions.


The take home lesson is that what was at first a safety factor became a serious liability.  The entire stoichiometry of the solutions and reactants changed leading to a false sense of security.  Few people know that the ph of a solution is altered by deuterium.  The place where this accidental experiment happened sold millions of dollars of drugs and drug chemicals and consumed thousands of liters of deuterium laced water.


This accident shows that deuterium can have unintended consequences and cause stoichiometric alterations with dramatic effect.


12/20/2020 wsa.

2 Replies
New Contributor III

Re: deuterium complications

These deuterium complications are complicated by difficulties in measurement related to classical relativity.  What is not appreciated is the biological physiological nature of natural deuterium.

New Contributor

Re: deuterium complications

The accidental experiment described involves mixing deuterium-enriched substances, including deuterium-laced water, isopropyl alcohol, and nitric acid. Initially, no visible reaction occurs when nitric acid is added to the mixture. However, after capping the bottle and leaving it overnight, a violent reaction takes place, resulting in a flame and vapor cloud eruption. This unexpected outcome underscores the potential for deuterium to cause unforeseen reactions and alter  stoichiometry, even in seemingly simple chemical processes. It's a reminder of the complex nature of isotopic substitutions and their potential to lead to dramatic effects. This incident serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of understanding the implications of isotopic modifications in chemical reactions and the need for thorough safety assessments when working with such substances.

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