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Building an adiabatic calorimeter


My thesis: 'The specific heat of heavy water'
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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The thesis was 'The specific heat of heavy water'. You know, heavy water is the isotope, the D2O, the deuterium isotope of normal water which is H2O, and Eucken was interested in the specific heat, which had to be measured very precisely by five decimals, up to 10-5, because he had developed the water theory, the theory of the structure formation in water. You know, water molecules are dipoles, and so they have a strong interaction which is called hydrogen bond, it's a bond between the positive proton in the H2O molecule and the lone electron pair at the oxygen of the water molecule, and it made these associations via hydrogen bonds. And he wanted to test his theory and needed the isotope effects.

[Q] But the question is, it was post-war, DO2, heavy water...


[Q] Excuse me... did he have it? It was forbidden, it was a...

Yes, he still had in his board, he still had about 500 grams of it, but it was a...

[Q] Secret? Treasure?

It was a treasure. I mean he could... well, all right, you couldn't buy it any more, you couldn't get new one, but what you had, you can't do any harm with D2O. D2O plays a role in the atomic reactor, the fast neutrons are slowed down by the deuterium and therefore... But for atomic reactor you needed large amounts of heavy water so you couldn't do anything. No, it was a real scientific problem, but heavy water was expensive at that time.

[Q] And you couldn't buy it?

Oh no, you couldn't buy it, it wasn't available, and if it were available in the States or wherever, it would have been very, very expensive.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: heavy water, isotope, deuterium, H2O, D2O, hydrogen bonds, atomic reactor, Arnold Eucken

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008