67P: generating water for painting

My on-going interest: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which has hosted for the 1st time in the human history a robotic probe on 12 November 2014.

During the short period of time after the landing Philae ( a 100 kg (220 lb) robotic probe) has collected some data about the water on the comet, hoping to cast light on the mystery about how did water come to the planet Earth. It was discovered that the water on 67P is different then on our planet, to be more exact, that water has D2O (also known as heavy water) 3 times higher then on Earth, which is the highest ever amount found in nature.

I have decided to re-create similar water to the one found on 67P and paint with this water a set of works of the comet.

Heavy water. 
What is heavy water? Deuterium oxide (2H2O ) or D2O, is a form of water that contains a larger than normal amount of the hydrogenisotope deuterium (also known as heavy hydrogen, which can be symbolized as 2H or D) rather than the common hydrogen-1isotope (called protium, symbolized as 1H) that makes up most of the hydrogen in normal water. Long story short. I needed to recreate this heavy water in order to enrich my regular New York top to the amount found on the comet.

After my research I have discovered that D2O is not possible to generate, nature does not produce it, and the only D2O found has probably formed during the Big Bang. My only option was to extract it, but there are only about 156 deuterium atoms per million hydrogen atoms (1 per 6410). After reading few articles and blogs, I understood that I could use electrolysis process in order to bring the level of heavy water higher.
Surely, I would need a lot of energy and voltage to generate the pure D2O, and in my art project I am just using this process for an educational prepose.

I used a 22 V 550 Amps AC/DC adopter as my electrolysis devise.
Electrolysis will be decomposing H2O into H and O, leaving D2O alone.
Hydrogen will appear at the cathode (the negatively charged electrode, where electrons enter the water), and oxygen will appear at the anode (the positively charged electrode).

It was recommended to attach stainless steel or graphite at the ends of each wire.
I started my tasting. For the stainless steel I took 2 stainless forks. In order to speed up the process it was suggested to add electrolyte, such as baking soda or salt.


Try 1: stainless forks, salt.
After just few seconds I could see 2 gasses (H and O) were forming on the forks. In few minutes the color of the water was rapidly turning rusty. After another 3-4 min the water turned green. I can not use rusty water for painting with watercolor.


Try 2: stainless forks, backing soda
This time it was not so fast of a color change, but even the stainless steel was oxidizing and turning into rust. It was still not good, a lot of rusty sediment. Though, if I would keep this water over night, some of the rust would settle on the bottom, the rest would float on the surface. Funny fact: if I would tap on the container, top sediment would slowly settle down. The water could be filtered and used for painting. But I wanted even better result.


Try 3: graphite rods, salt
This time all went well. I used artist leds (graphite), the water was clear. But suing salt in the water will make my painting form crystals (I have used this effect in the series of my works: Sky’s Darkest Spot). I had to eliminate salt.

Try 4: graphite rods, backing soda
This was the perfect run. Water stayed clear. Soda did not effect the paint! Success!

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.45.59 PM

I decided to use electrolysis for 3 hours each time. This amount of time was still not enough to get my water to the amount of D2O that was found on 67P. So I ordered the 100% pure Heavy water from United Nuclear. It was costly (12$ plus shipping per 10 grams of water!), but necessary.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.48.52 PM

Two drops of D2O to the whole large jar of water after electrolysis has made the trick. I now had what I was looking for: H2O enriched with D2O, just like on the comet 67P.

You would ask, how did it effect my painting? I did a test of 100% D2O and H2O on the watercolor. Both of the drops dried the same way (maybe D2O a little slower) and no visible differences were noticed. But this is not the point, is it?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.57.48 PM

2 thoughts on “67P: generating water for painting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s