National Deuteration Facility

The National Deuteration Facility (NDF) is co-funded by ANSTO and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy initiative of the Australian Government. ANSTO’s National Deuteration Facility is Australia’s first biological and chemical deuteration facility.  
National Deuteration Facility 3
ANSTO's National Deuteration Facility is Australia's first biological and chemical deuteration facility.
NDF offers the facilities, staff and expertise to produce molecules where all or part of the molecular hydrogen is in the form of the stable (non-radioactive) isotope deuterium (2H or D). The facility produces deuterated proteins, biopolymers, nucleic acids and synthesized small organic molecules such as lipids, phospholipids, sugars, surfactants, aliphatic hydrocarbons and aromatic, heterocyclic compounds. Double and triple labelling of proteins with both deuterium and the stable isotopes 13C and/or 15N is also available.

One of our key aims is to enable investigation of the relationship between molecular structure and function of molecules of both biological and synthetic origin for the benefit of the science community and the Australian community at large.

This is being achieved through increasing understanding of fundamental processes that effect human health and the environment and by providing characterisation techniques for the nanotechnology, biotechnology, phenomics, biomaterials, medicine, polymer and surfactant industries and research sectors.


Deuteration for characterisation

Deuteration enables scientists to use neutron based techniques such as small-angle neutron scattering (Quokka), neutron reflectometry (Platypus), neutron diffraction, neutron spectroscopy, neutron crystallography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) or IR based techniques more effectively in the investigation of the relationship between the structure and function of proteins, DNA, synthetic polymers or other materials known as 'soft matter'.
Hydrogen is an important and major component in all materials of organic chemistry and life science, but the interaction of hydrogen atoms with X-rays is weak. As hydrogen and deuterium atoms have strong and distinct interaction with neutrons, neutron scattering techniques, together with a modern deuteration facility is extremely useful in many studies of macromolecules in biology and many other areas.
For NMR studies, the deuterium nucleus has a different spin quantum number to the hydrogen nucleus, making it NMR silent in 1H NMR spectroscopy. Substituting deuterium for hydrogens removes unwanted 1H-1H coupling, simplifying the analysis of complex spectra.
Deuterium may be used as a non-radioactive, stable isotopic tracer in the chemical, biochemical and environmental sciences. In chemical reactions deuterium behaves somewhat similarly to ordinary hydrogen. It can be distinguished from ordinary hydrogen most easily by its mass, using mass spectrometry or infrared spectrometry. Deuterium can be detected by infrared spectroscopy, since the mass difference drastically affects the frequency of molecular vibrations; deuterium-carbon bond vibrations are found in locations free of other signals.
Chemical deuteration graph 

Deuteration laboratories

The NDF offers molecular deuteration using either in vivo biodeuteration or chemical deuteration techniques.
National Deuteration Facility 2
Biodeuteration involves the growth of microbial cultures (most commonly E. coli) in heavy water (D2O) supplemented with either a deuterated or hydrogenated carbon compound, depending on the level of deuteration required. The biomass is harvested and the deuterated molecule is purified and characterised. Learn more.

OLED Technology media centre thumbnail
Chemical deuteration involves deuterating whole molecules or building blocks for the synthesis of a desired molecule by exposing them to D2O at high temperatures and pressures in the presence of a catalyst. If required, compounds can then be synthesised from the deuterated building blocks using organic chemistry techniques. Learn more.


All deuteration proposals (including those from Australian researchers) should be submitted in 6-monthly rounds through the Australian Centre for Neutron Portal at
Proposals for the round "2019-1 Deuteration" are due 15 September 2018.

Learn more about the proposal submission process


The National Deuteration Facility is partly supported by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy – an initiative of the Australian Government.