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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Lab Uncategorized

The $10B per year challenge facing Washington State

If you could solve one problem affecting the lives of everyone in the Pacific Northwest, what would it be?

What would you be willing to give up to solve it?

WSU is working to solve many Grand Challenges. The one I’m telling you about today is a $10B per year problem that’s making us sick — the importing and use of fossil fuels in Washington State.

So here is my Grand Challenge:

Sustaining the Pacific Northwest via locally produced, clean, fuel.

More specifically, reducing the importation of carbon-based fossil fuels into Washington State to less than half of the status quo by 2050, when I’m eligible to retire.


The 7,310,300 residents of Washington State own 7,872,783 vehicles that nearly entirely burn imported fossil fuels. 46% of Washington State’s primary energy needs come from petroleum resulting in nearly half of the 94.4 Million Metric Tons of greenhouse gas emissions in our state in 2013. If those emissions were solid CO2 piled on top of CenturyLink field, it would be a pile 7.5 miles tall, every year. It’s a giant scar on our state — one that funnels $$$ billions out of our state to import those fuels, the emissions of which ultimately disrupt the lifespans of us and our ecosystems.

Breakdown the big three fossil fuel imports — 141.5 million barrels of oil, 308 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and 3.5 million short tons of coal — assume $60/barrel of oil, $3.00/thousand cubic feet of natural gas, $45/ton of coal, and that’s $8.5 billion lost to oil, 0.924 billion to natural gas, and $157.5 million to coal. That’s nearly $10 billion every year that would stay here in our state if we had domestic alternatives. Not to mention the reduction in medical bills from the reduced pollution.

Moreover, an alternative like hydrogen is a primary feedstock for many chemical processes, including fertilizer, that we also import.

What will we replace Fossils with? — Electrofuels – primarily Hydrogen

More than 3/4 of Washington State’s electricity generation is from renewable sources in the Columbia basin, making Washington the 2nd largest renewable energy producer in the United States. We produce so much electricity that over half is distributed elsewhere via the Western Interconnect. Here’s a breakdown by power generation type for the Bonneville Power Administration:

Note the monthly variation in Hydro Generated associated with spring run-off, how we vary the output of our single nuclear power plant (Thermal Generated) to adjust for the variable load, and that more power is sent to California (Net Interchange) than we use (Net Load). We see something interesting when we take a closer look at the Wind Generated. In the below right figure you see the increase in installed wind generation capacity for BPA, a nice exponential increase that hit a wall in 2012. The lower left figure, a map of Current and Proposed Wind Projects in the Columbia Gorge, shows that the limit in generation capacity wasn’t due to a lack of sites. The limit is our ability to control the daily fluctuations in renewable power supply.

At any given moment the BPA is working to regulate the power on the grid, to keep the voltage from getting too high (light bulbs blow out) or too low (brown outs). The BPA has real time outputs of this balancing act. Here is a shot from 2016 I use in talks. You can see two points where we exceeded our limit to decrease (dec) and increase (inc) energy on the grid, which causes problems. Although there are many ways to improve incs and decs, they start becoming expensive and difficult to manage. Here’s a chart from BPA showing the difference between expected wind power and the actual. Differences between the two shows when balancing reserved had to be kicked in.

So to continue increasing the amount of wind we need to increase the amount of dispatch-able loads that can take that wind power. NREL has done the studies. Hydrogen producing electrolyzers take water and this excess electricity and are great for variable supplies such as wind-power. This storable energy form can then be used for cars, injected into the natural gas system, or stored seasonally for power production during other times of the year.

How will our vehicles change?

Washington state is making excellent strides on all electric vehicles. This requires extensive infrastructure investments to install charging stations and to upgrade our neighborhood transformers to handle the increased supply. But the investment will pay off big time! Not only will we need less fuel imports, we’ll be able to more easily balance the grid if these chargers are smart.

But like most things, this won’t solve all of our problems. I’ve written several articles about the tradeoffs between electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Most see this as an either or. But when you stand back and look at where the technology is headed, you quickly realize that battery and fuel cell technologies are synergistic and what we all want is a hybrid. Read my piece on “Toyota versus Tesla” for more. In short, the optimal is a hybrid fuel-cell battery-electric vehicle with a 40 mile plug-in battery range (easily done with rooftop solar in the Northwest or a standard plug-in outlet overnight) and a 300 mile hydrogen fuel-cell backup (perfect for getting out and running on the highways with only 3-5 minutes to fully recharge).

Sound good? Here’s how to help make it happen.

WSU-Pullman is the flagship institution in the heart of the Columbia River Basin, the 2nd largest river in North America. Our Grand Challenge is to steward the resources of this region to sustain the vitality of the Pacific Northwest.

The HYdrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) lab at WSU is poised to address this challenge by being the only university cryogenic hydrogen lab in the US. We are developing solutions to our hydrogen refueling challenge as exemplified by the following video:


With two top finishes in the International Hydrogen Student Design Contest , our experience developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like the Genii liquid hydrogen drone, alumni who have created startup companies, we uniquely have the experience to lead this energy transition for our region.

Seriously. But we need your help to do it. Here’s the link to donate. And here are many other ways to help.


  1. Thanks to Ken Dragoon of Flink Energy Consulting for helpful comments on BPA.



Social Thermodynamics: Bouncy House Physics

“Honey, how long before they get hurt?” — Wikimedia Commons

All the parents have been there. You arrive at a birthday party and discover the hosts rented a trampoline or bouncy house. You’re both excited and concerned at the same time. You know it will be fun for your child, but also a big safety risk… I myself have a fake front tooth in the place of one claimed by a trampoline in the second grade.

Before sending little Johnny or Jenny in, you take a quick scan to see how many other kids are on the bouncy surface, how fast they are moving, how empathic the big ones are to the little ones, and how many other parents are on the sides keeping things in check. You inherently know when the conditions cause the likelihood of an injury to go through the roof. This is a phase change problem. Contrary to our Social Thermodynamics: Creativity post, we’re trying to prevent phase change here. Let’s break it down by the Gibb’s energy:

g = u + Pv – Ts

where u is values, P is stress, v is inverse density, T is resources, and s is empathy. If the change (g2-g1) in Gibb’s energy is negative (the value for g is less after something happens then before) phase change will spontaneously occur. In other words, to prevent phase change, the goal is to make g2 greater than g1 to prevent things from going crazy. Let’s go term by term:

u (values): the reason the kids go in to begin with is that you want them to have fun with friends. But before you send them off you add another value layer by whispering in their ear, “Be very careful  to stay safe and not hurt little Debra.” A number of parents put in the work to stick around the sides offering constant safety reminders to keep the values high.

P (stress): The constant reminders often come with an ultimatum: “if you can’t keep from bumping into Debra you’re going to have to come out.” The kids feel it too. If the bumping gets to hard, they don’t want to get hurt either, “anybody cries and the ‘rents will shut ‘er down.” The more tight the packing, the higher the stress.

v (inverse density): Remember this is inverse density, the lower the density, the more space between people. The lower the number in the bouncy house, the higher the space between people, and the lower the chance that things change for the worse. What’s also interesting is we can estimate a physical volume or area where a phase change starts to occur relative to the energetics of the bouncy surface. My estimate is that for a bunch of 3-5 year olds, the threshold area is about 2-3 square meters per child. But this depends on the energetics of the situation.

T (resources): Don’t send them in full of sugar and caffeine! The key resource being used here is ATP. Just like in classic thermodynamics, temperature is a measure of the average speed of particles. The faster they’re moving the higher the likelihood of injury. If things start to get dicey, slow it down to prevent phase change. Things will eventually slow down as ATP is burned up. One of the best ways to slow it down quickly? Get your kid talking to you on the outside (Qout).

s (empathy): Math says try to reduce the connections in order to inhibit phase change. Intuition says the opposite. A minimum amount of empathy is required commensurate with the values needed for safety. Blindfolding the children before sending them in would be a disaster. A minimum awareness of others, speeds, direction, and intent is required. But it’s easy to saturate this ability with three or more kids. We’ll come back to this with the topic of natural group/cohort sizing. In short, lock eyes and bounce with one -fun, more though and your in for a blow.

Remember, all of these properties are related for a situation, and we still need a surface of state that shows how these change relative to each other. It’s very possibly to increase Gibb’s energy through the other properties even though entropy/empathy increased. In this case I’d guess that the fastest way to prevent phase change is reducing the number of kids. I stood outside a bouncy house for awhile one afternoon trying to predict how many more kids could get added before the system spontaneously changed. Parents were always aware enough to step in and dampen the change before it happened. Many of the kids felt the pressure too and removed themselves.

Trampolines and bouncy houses are fun. They give us the ability to defy gravity and entropy for a short time. Another way to think about this — they give us new ways and abilities of interacting with the world and our friends and thereby increases our connections. I never thought about fun as a quality measure for empathy generation.

Support our H2-Flo Hydrogen Liquifier + Refueling Demonstrator

We’ve launched a funding opportunity to help our student club complete the H2-Flo Hydrogen liquifier + refueling station. What could be the first in Washington State! Here is a video discussing the project:

Your tax-deductible donations will primarily fund the final pieces of equipment necessary to make our demonstrator field-implementable. Most specifically, we need a commercial grade Stirling Cycle precooler, a hydrogen compressor, an electrolyzer, and the dispensing interface. Our overall goal of $450,000 will allow us to realize the first hydrogen refueling station in Washington State. In return for your generosity, you will receive a gift commensurate with the level of your donation (yes the levels are cummulative):

$10- Certificate
$50- Recognition on website
$100- 3 H2-Flo Vinyl Stickers
$500- HYPER lab or ISE club t-shirt
$1,000- 2 HYPER lab game posters
$5,000- Laser engraved liquifier seal
$10,000- Vinyl sticker recognition on side of container
$50,000- All day lab tour and cryogenic demonstrations
$100,000- All access

The HYPER lab tube fitting guide

This post summarizes the use of Swagelok® Tube Fittings, which are used extensively in the HYPER lab. If you’re already familiar with tube fittings, you may want to skip to the best practices at the bottom. Most of this guide is pulled directly from “An Installer’s Pocket Guide for Swagelok® Tube Fittings.” If you haven’t read this already, you should! We have several physical copies around the lab.


Table of Contents

What is a tube fitting?

Swagelok® Tube Fittings are also referred to as Swagelok Fittings, Tube Fittings, or Compression Fittings. You’ll see similar fittings at the local hardware store, but beware – they aren’t the same! While both the hardware store variety of compression fitting, and the Swagelok fitting operate by swaging, or forming the tube around hard metal ferrules, the Swagelok fitting is a robust, double ferrule design whereas the hardware store variety is almost always a single ferrule design. In the above picture, you see a female nut with the two hard metal ferrules installed correctly to a male fitting body (in this case, an NPT adapter). The bends in the tubing around the ferrules signify the seal locations between the ferrules and the tubing.

First Installation: Swaging

Before Installing for the first time, ensure that the tubing and fitting are in good order. The tubing should be clean and free of scratches at the ends. The tubing should already be bent into the desired shape, and you should check  for sizing to ensure proper fit (this insures we don’t waste nuts and ferrules by swaging onto the tubing before measuring). If you cut the tubing, be sure to clean the tubing with a burr-removal tool. The tubing end should be completely round and clear of burrs or dents.

The above steps point you through the process of swaging the nut ferrule onto a fitting. Be aware! While most of our fittings require 1-1/4 turns to swage, smaller fittings may require 3/4 turn. Make sure your tubing is all the way into the fitting body – you will not get a good seal if you don’t properly seat the tubing.

After your first installation (swaging the ferrules on the tubing) you can ensure proper tightening by using the gauging tool. HYPER lab has a gauging tool that can test our most commonly used fitting sizes. Try to insert the correct side of the gauging tool into the gap between the nut and fitting body. If you are able to insert the gauging tool into the gap, the fitting must be tightened further. If you cannot, the fitting is properly tightened. BEWARE: The gauging tool only works on the initial installation of the fitting. If you remove the tubing from the fitting and reseal, you are not guaranteed proper tightening with the gauging tool.

Reinstallation: When you have to disconnect and reconnect lines.

Before you disconnect a tube fitting, ensure that the system is depressurized. It is not recommended that you depressurize any system by loosening any fitting, including tubing fittings. Doing so could potentially shoot fittings and/or tubing across the room. Mark the fitting as indicated in the instructions below before taking the fitting apart.


Again, as stated above, the gauging tool will not help you to determine if a fitting you have resealed is correctly tightened.

Best Practices

The following list are best practices developed by members of the lab for working with tubing fittings.

Marking fittings

Always mark fittings before tightening (or loosening) the fittings. It will ensure that fittings are properly tightened, and will prevent over-tightening. This will increase the lifespan of our fittings and tubing. Clean fittings after finishing so your markings don’t get in the way for next time.

Hard to reach fittings

If the fitting body you’re trying to attach tubing to is in a hard to reach area, use a different fitting body to swage the tubing, then remove the tube from the fitting and install in location. In this case, you will not be able to use markings to help you reseal the fitting – tighten the fitting until hand tight, then tighten 1/4 turn more with wrenches.

Correct tubing thicknesses

The recommended tubing thickness for using fractional tubing fittings for stainless steel and copper tubing are given below. For gas service, it is recommended that you use a tubing thickness outside the shaded areas in the charts.

Stainless Steel Tubing Sizing Chart for Tube Fittings
Stainless Steel Tubing Sizing Chart for Tube Fittings
Copper Tubing Sizing Chart for Tube Fittings

For other materials, or metric recommendations, please consult “An Installer’s Pocket Guide for Swagelok® Tube Fittings.”

Kaizen in the works

Water and Steel

Water has become a problem in our compressed air lines, which is evident on our steel quick disconnects. The rust and corrosion can result in weakened fittings, contamination of equipment using the air line. Worst of all the fittings were all seized up! To continue the Kaizen, or continuous improvement, of the lab we are improving the use of our air line fittings. This is the first problem we are having, these are also older fittings and can be difficult to connect and disconnect. To test the solution we started by trying out several options and weighing them against each other. Shown below is the old fitting removed from the current connections.

Exploring multiple design solutions

Here we have 3 options under consideration for replacing the airline fittings. All of these fitting were available in the lab for testing and going over customer reviews. It was found that aluminum fittings are more suitable for home users who don’t disconnect fittings very frequently. The Current steel fitting will corrode and both did not have the flow rates required for our Haskell air driven compressors. The brass and steel connectors are rated to 300 psi. However the High flow version supports 74 SCFM while the normal only supports 40 SCFM. Nearly double the flow rate!

Pros Cons
Steel Standard Fittings Strong
Long Lasting
Rusts with water in lines
Aluminum Anodized Standard Lightweight
Corrosion resistant
Not Strong, Will not seal after a couple hundred uses
Brass High Flow Fittings Corrosion resistant
Long lasting
Higher Flow rate


Show below are the male versions of the fittings, The female High flow connectors work with male fittings of our other varieties without leaking. making the female high flow connectors the best choice for use in the lab. This follows the poka-yoke philosophy meaning that things can be used with minimal mental and physical effort. Another Post on Kaizen and poka-yoke. By making all of the female fittings able to work with all the male fittings in the lab there can’t be a mistake breaking anything if you don’t grab a high flow male fitting for your experiment!


All female wall connections have been switched to the high flow versions. We have also installed two water trap air regulators in the spaces to limit fluid damage to any equipment.

Use of the regulators:

For Disconnecting a regulator to use somewhere else:

–Everyone should be able to find them, so the regulators have a home. As shown below and shall be returned to their locations after use

–The connections can easily go flying if care is not taken to relief the pressure. To Disconnect ensure that the airline connection ball valve is closed, then bleed the pressure at the bottom of the water trap.

For changing regulator pressure:

–Pull the knob down underneath the regulator, then turn the knob to adjust. (Do not force the knob as it may not be engaged)



WANTED: books, books and more books

One of the ways our Composer in Residence is improving our community is through books. We started a general personal/communal improvement library with the following entries through his recommendations:

  • Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte
  • Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, Volume 1: Induction and Analogy in Mathematics by George Polya
  • Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle
  • Architecture: Form, Space and Order by Francis D.K. Ching
  • Language in Thought and Action by S.I. Hayakawa

Update: recent contributions from Jake’s collection:

  • Steal Like an Artist and,
  • Show Your Work! both by Austin Kleon.

If there is a particular book or books that you would recommend to help us think outside the box and improve our community please sent them to the following suggestion box:


Opportunities for Agile in the Voiland College at WSU

“How do we design more inclusive spaces that promote creativity and diversity?” — Is a question that every company, university, and administrator that is designing products or spaces is currently considering. It’s a major key to thriving environments! Here in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture (VCEA) at WSU this has been a perennial discussion topic for several decades. Yet we remain decidedly average in diversity numbers. We seem stuck in the same rut as most while we watch companies like Google accelerate into the future. The key questions remain intractable: Why are we stuck? How do we fix it given our limited resources? And what can we do now?

Why we are stuck:

One of my good friends and mentors from my days at the University of Idaho is Regents Professor Dan Bukvich. In a 2014 interview with the UI Alumni magazine about his lifetime of achievement, Dan summed up the problem:

“I’ve been to a lot of places where people designed spaces for themselves and ended up incredibly limited.”

When given a windfall donation the vast majority of Universities and traditional companies will F themselves- fractionate and fractalize. Dan observed that music programs tend to carve out a percussion room, vocal room, strings room, performance halls, etc. Pretty soon they find in-group/out-group dynamics, siloing, and a lack of overlap and cohesion. Sound familiar? WSU has done the same thing. This is a natural result of faux-performance based thinking in the authoritarian-legalistic v-Meme. The authoritarian and legalistic v-Meme structures are naturally tree-like due to simplified design laws that culminate in fractal geometries. Do the same thing over and over again whenever you get more sunlight/resources and eventually you will cover all of your bases. Read my prior post “How Universities Evolved Tree-like Structures” for more.

The problem? Accelerating change. Trees tend not to pull up their roots to evolve and adapt quickly to new stimuli. They die and hope an offspring starts over with the right derivative skill set. Another word typically used to describe these types of organisms and organizations is “waterfall”– things flow one-way and you can’t go back, everything must be done by a certain time and you move on. For those of you familiar with the current problems of the Acadamy, it’s a real question whether we’ll make it through the 21st century without revolution.

Within MME we’re currently considering how to renovate our Design, Manufacturing, and Controls (DMC) Faculty and curriculum. Do we carve out a space to design, another space to build, another to assemble, and a final to test? Or can we think of another way?

We’re stuck, and it doesn’t look good.

Thankfully, we only tend to act like trees in a psychological v-Meme sense. We’re not a one-and-done tree, unlike the waterfall we must continually improve and iterate. We can change the program and fix it whenever we realize that we can and must.

How we can fix it

Let’s bring this back to the University of Idaho and my friend Dan Bukvich. Where most schools have many rehearsal halls and the fractionated approach to space allocation, the UI School of Music has just 1 rehearsal hall for everything. How is this possible? It’s literally used all day, every day. Given the limited resources the UI had at the time, the faculty came together and came up with a system to turn the space over in less than ten minutes for the next group. They innovated incredible transitions between classes to get the space converted quickly for the next group, whether percussion, strings, or vocal. The result? Idaho is known internationally for incredibly creative, high-energy transitions between performances, and student and faculty collaborations that transcend traditional boundaries in novel ways. That’s no accident — they forced themselves to innovate with what they had (people) and thereby freed themselves of the traditional building/space/money pits. They have to take a systemic v-Meme approach to realize the space must quickly look and act entirely differently to accept the new class, faculty member approach, and instrument paradigm. The result? The UI performs on performance night regardless of the group.

No surprise, this systemic v-Meme propagates to those close by. The UI has another fantastic example of systemic v-Meme use of space that’s even more relevant to VCEA in the UI Mechanical Engineering Department. The UI Capstone Design program was recently recognized by the National Academy of Engineering as one of 8 “Exemplary” programs for creating real-world engineering experiences. On the surface you’ll see a hub and spoke style design with a core machine shop, assembly area, design space, and club space. But the real magic is how the people are structured within the space. Rather than having graduate students associated with fractionated classes, the UI paired graduate students with sponsored projects and competitions, which adds a vertical project-centered aspect to their curriculum. Lean manufacturing is also a key focus.

Lean manufacturing is the Japanese design philosophy focusing on client empathy and continuous improvement of practice. The UI ME program is very “lean” through connecting course projects to continuously improve the function of the space. The music program does something very similar through educational-focused student projects. When everyone, and every class is continuously improving this core functioning area, and the community rallies around completion of sponsored projects, you see incredibly innovated results anchored in the physical world. It’s no coincidence that the UI won the NAE recognition and has won many SAE Clean Snowmobile Awards and the SAE Formula-hybrid competition.

This type of environment that is quickly reconfigurable, adaptable, and focused on real-world product delivery is known as “Agile” within the design world. The term “Agile” spun out of the philosophies of lean manufacturing to dominate the world of software engineering. Agile methods are well established online. What’s important to note is that I’m not advocating an either “Agile” or “Waterfall” approach, I’m simply advocating that we do more than just traditional “Waterfall”. Here’s a great read on Agile in a Waterfall World. Our library has an e-book version of the textbook: “Agile Practices for Waterfall Projects“.

With excellent equipment, facilities, staff, students, and textbook resources like those above, just about the only reason we at WSU have for not doing agile systems is that we have just enough money not to be forced to. The UI had to resort to systemic v-Meme, agile methods and spaces because they did not have enough resources from the state to do anything else several decades ago. Now that WSU’s resources are strained by the new Medical School and aggressive hiring of new tenure track faculty lines without additional staff, we too are approaching the must-change event horizon.

What we can do now

We need to take stock of our existing spaces. What percentage of the week are they utilized? Are they doing real work for our community and regional constituents? How empathetic are the spaces to users and neighboring spaces (i.e. do people know what is happening so that they can help)?

We can then start integrating and sharing our spaces for both research and teaching. When we are aligned with actually producing real product for our constituents, the lines between research and teaching blur. A design-build-assembly-test hub can be carved out of within bigger spaces and through combinations of spaces. The more you blur the lines between design-build-assemble-test, the more innovation and iteration you will get.

Aligning our people around real, sponsored projects for the constituents of our region changes our values to the core. Dr. Chuck has been advocating for a project Arrivals and Departures board for years. This kind of information flow can be accomplished by pairing graduate students and faculty with projects instead of classes. They can then get several classes working on aspects of their projects. The students get more from real world experiences, and the entire program gets more funding from the region. HINT: That’s a positive synergy. Another key result from this — the classic problem of deciding what courses to teach becomes easier. We teach the courses that our projects and region need us to teach to continue to deliver the products they need!

Many have said we need a new $60 million building to do this kind of thing. That would help. But we need to just do what we can, with what we have, where we are at. We just need to begin.

The resource crunch is necessitating a phase change on the horizon, and before we double down on the command and control waterfall of old, we need to embrace our quickly changing agile future.

ME 527 Lesson 36: Fluid Friday – Deuterium

Now that we are familiar with hydrogen, we will cover it’s only stable isotope, Deuterium on our list of cryogenic:

  1. Krypton (119.73 K)
  2. Methane (111.67 K)
  3. Oxygen (90.188 K)
  4. Argon (87.302 K)
  5. Fluorine (85.037 K)
  6. Carbon Monoxide (81.64 K)
  7. Nitrogen (77.355 K)
  8. Neon (27.104 K)
  9. Deuterium (23.31 K)
  10. Hydrogen (20.369 K)
  11. Helium (4.222 K)

Introduction and Discovery

Deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotope of hydrogen. Deuterium comes from the Greek deuteros meaning “second” referring to the two particles (proton + neutron) in the nucleus.  Deuterium accounts for 0.0156% of the hydrogen in the oceans or one in 6420 hydrogen atoms.  Deuterium was created during the Big Bang and accounts for 0.0013% of the Universe.

Deuterium was discovered by Harold Urey in 1931.  He predicted that their would be a difference between the vapor pressure of pure hydrogen and it’s heavier isotopes. He developed a method to isolate the heavier isotope through the distillation of liquid hydrogen. This lead to Urey receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1934 “for his discovery of heavy hydrogen”.

Similarly to hydrogen, deuterium also has 2 spin isomers denoted as orthodeuterium and paradeuterium. Contrary to hydrogen and tritium, the lower-energy, even-states are denoted “ortho” for deuterium, while the higher-energy, odd-J states are denoted “para.” This is due to the ortho-para compositions at room temperature are different for deuterium than they are for hydrogen because deuterium has nuclear spin of +1 whereas hydrogen has a nuclear spin of +1/2.

Uses and Production

Deuterium is used as fuel in nuclear fusion reactors like the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and ITER (in development). Deuterium is also used in NMR spectroscopy, as a stable isotope tracer, nuclear weapons, and medicine for deuterated drugs.  Research grade deuterium gas costs $1,112 for 500 standard liters which equates to $12.38 per gram!  This price can be reduced to $1/L for larger orders of research grade deuterium.  Due to the military applications, the deuterium market is very secretive and little information is available to the public. After a discussion with a Linde representative, I was able to learn that the deuterium market has rapidly grown over the last 10 years because of it’s use in the manufacturing of semiconductors and fiber optics. Linde is the largest producer of deuterium in the world producing millions of liters a years.

Due to the small differences in molecular mass, it is energy intensive and expensive to separate the isotopes of hydrogen.

H2 Combinations

Deuterium can be separate from the other hydrogen isotopes through several processes including chemical exchange, thermal diffusion, cryogenic distillation, electrolysis, and permeation.The most common method for producing deuterium is through electrolysis of heavy water, D2O, which is widely used in heavy water reactors. Until it’s closure in 1997, the Bruce Heavy Water plant in Ontario, Canada was the largest producer of D2O utilizing the Girdler Sulfide process.  This is an isotopic exchange process between H2S and H2O:  H2O + HDS ⇌ HDO + H2S. After several iteration this process is able to enrich the water to 15-20% D2O where it can then be purified using distillation or electrolysis.  This process takes 340,000 kg of feed water to produce 1 kg of heavy water.

D2O Production Overview

Canada is the largest producer and consumer of heavy water where it is used to cool their CANDU reactors. The price of heavy water is $300 per kg (2001).

D2O Production



Fixed Properties

D2 Fixed Properties

Surface of State

Only the equation of state for normal deuterium is included in REFPROP.  The variation in thermophysical properties between orthodeuterium and paradeuterium were not significant enough to warrant separate equation to be include in REFPROP.

Critical Isotherm

Though the rectilinear diameter has a slight change in the curvature, the critical isotherm exhibits correct thermodynamic behavior.

D2 Extrapolation

Extrapolating to extreme pressures and densities shows the equations behaves theoretically correct at the high extremes.


The Cv vs. T plot for deuterium behaves similar to traditional fluids with saturated vapor line crossing the saturated liquid line.


The deuterium equation was complete in 2013 and is a 21 term, Helmholtz explicit equation of state.




Tritium is the heaviest of the hydrogen isotopes having 2 neutrons.  Tritium is highly radioactive having a half-life of 12.3 years.  Tritium is very rare in nature accounting for only 3 in 10^18 atoms of hydrogen.  The radioactive decay causes phosphors to glow making it useful for self-power lighting in devices like watches, exit signs, firearm sights, etc.  Tritium is also used in nuclear weapons and as fuel for fusion reactors like ITER and NIF.  Tritium costs a staggering $30,000 per gram.  The commercial demand is 400 grams per year.  Pure tritium is produced  by cryogenically distilling enriched deuterium gas streams that have been electrolyzed from the heavy water CANDU reactors.

Cryo Distillation





There are only a handful of vapor pressure and density experimental measurements for tritium. The available information on the critical and triple point properties are discussed below:

Tritium Properties

















A Helmholtz explicit equation of state does not exist for tritium.

ME 316 Sp2016 Lesson 2: Team Formation

Let’s group into the teams we’ve generated using CATME.

Take a moment to tell your new team members 1. where you’re from, 2. why you’re here, and 3. what problem you will solve in the world someday.

We’re going to kick things off in your new team with a high energy example of how this semester could, but hopefully won’t, play out. (start build a tower, build a team challenge)

While this demonstration is fun, and somewhat informative about team functioning issues, there are several problems here. The marshmallow challenge is somewhat of a “canned” exercise. It’s highly thought about, highly constrained (e.g. you only get 1 yard of string, not 2, 18 minutes, not 18 weeks) and the goal is very simple and easily measurable. While that may be good for developing a “clean” story for an environment like TED, and is all too common in academia when we teach ‘design’, it’s incredibly misleading about the realities of the design process. Real problems hardly ever work out this cleanly.

In many ways, the marshmallow challenge is analogous to being in a math class and being asked to find the solution to a differential equation. You have no idea who you are solving it for or why and you have no idea where it came from or how. So you take the equation, enter it into Wolfram Alpha and (Ta-Da!) problem solved. You really have no idea how it happened or what it’s good for. There is a reason the machines can do this now.

The real challenge (and value!) is taking something in the real world in front of you, that somebody cares about, and carefully defining the problem in such a way that allows you to come up with a differential equation to solve that adequately represents the physics of the problem and adds real value. Translated to our design class: taking a real client, who hardly ever knows exactly what they want, need, or how to do it, and executing a design process that leads that ends up with them being happy.

Our customer this semester is Ag-Energy Solutions out of Spokane. They are coming one week from today (next Wednesday). We need to educate ourselves as quickly as possible to the nature of their need. In a nutshell, they make a system that produces activated charcoal and waste biogas (which has a lot of hydrogen) from farm waste. They need a system that increases the value of that biogas waste through purification and densification of the hydrogen so we can sell it to the highest paying customers.

I’m guessing you have little to no idea how this is done. Which makes it very difficult to ask them good questions. Time to start reading. Our engineering librarian, Chelsea Leachman, is coming to class on Friday to help you find and use the resources the library has for this design. You’ll need to have the following documents for that lecture as Chelsea will help you prepare them:

  1. Stakeholder Interview Plan – To be completed as a team and uploaded to your team’s Slack thread before class on Wednesday (20th).

You’ll want to focus on how this need is currently addressed and what the necessary components/parts of the process are.

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