Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stable Isotopes: An interview

AMWood: We're here today with a dear friend of mine, Mr. I. So-Tope. He's just come back from the deep ocean, after a short trip through the Great Conveyor of Thermohaline circulation. Wow! What a treat to have you here.

I. So-Tope: Hi there Wood, it's nice to see you too. I'm a little heavy these days (chuckles). You can call me, Deuterium or D. 

W: Okay, D. So tells us a little about yourself.

D: Well, as an isotope of hydrogen, I am type of hydrogen atom that is different from your standard periodic-table chaps; I have a different number of neutrons from your vanilla H. My number of protons is the same, and consequently my atomic number, but my mass is much greater.
W: I've heard you have 99.8% more mass than H. 

D: That's true! That's because H has 1 proton and no neutrons with a mass of 1, but as deuterium, I have a proton and neutron, so my mass is 2. I help to make heavy water

W: But I've hear about some isotopes that are similar are you to Uranium-238?
D: Well, I'm a stable isotope. Meaning, I don't do that cray sh*t that U-238 does. I don't decay; my mass is stable and I'm not so heavy that I'm breaking apart and releasing radioactivity. I'm much more chill. 

Radioactivity is for U.... Not for me. (*a chemistry joke*)

W: What kind of effect does this have on how you live and move?

D: It really affects that part of my life... Because I'm heavier, I'm preferentially left with other "heavy" water molecules (H2O, or in my case D2O) in water reservoirs like the ocean and lakes. When I do get evaporated, fractionation occurs and I'm rained, snowed, condensed out first. People can then follow where I've been and can predict where I'll be left behind in meteoric water records. Baby, before you can say "calcareous shales," I'm left out to dry in some authigenic carbonates in some geologist's wet dream of an outcrop in British Columbia.
A geologist. Planning to study in BC.

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