What is the heaviest isotope of hydrogen?

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What is the heaviest isotope of hydrogen?


The title of “heaviest hydrogen isotope” goes to tritium, also known as ³H or T.


Why Tritium is the heaviest isotope of hydrogen?

  • Neutron Count: Compared to the “lighter” hydrogen isotopes, protium (¹H) with no neutrons and deuterium (²H) with one neutron, tritium boasts a whopping two neutrons folded alongside its single proton. These extra neutrons contribute significantly to its mass, setting it apart as the heaviest.
  • Mass & Abundance: Tritium has an atomic mass of approximately 3.016049 atomic mass units (amu), roughly three times heavier than protium, the most common isotope. However, due to its instability, tritium makes up only a minuscule fraction (about 1 in 10 quadrillion!) of natural hydrogen on Earth.

Here’s a table summarizing the key players

IsotopeProtonsNeutronsMass (amu)Abundance
Protium (¹H)101.00782599.9885%
Deuterium (²H)112.0141020.015%
Tritium (³H)123.016049~1 in 10^15

Beyond the Weight

While weight is what sets tritium apart, its unique properties make it even more fascinating:

  • Radioactivity: Unlike its stable siblings, tritium is radioactive, meaning its nucleus undergoes spontaneous decay over time. This property has its challenges and opportunities, finding applications in areas like isotope dating and self-powered light sources.
  • Fusion Fuel: Tritium, along with deuterium, plays a crucial role in nuclear fusion research, potentially offering a clean and abundant energy source in the future.

More Important Questions on Isotopes

What do you mean by isotopes?

What are 5 examples of isotopes?

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