Discovery of heavy hydrogen at VU Amsterdam

Bombings, sabotage and nuclear bombs, exciting objects are found in the inventories of the University Library programme KEA.

03/15/2017 | 10:08 AM

Vondst zwaar water

Research fellow Martin Slaman (Physics) discoverd ten ampoules heavy water (2H2O or deuterium oxide) in the original box, probably purchased for physicist Gerardus J. Sizoo, professor at VU Amsterdam (1930-1965) and founder of the Dutch nuclear physics. Heavy water is amongst other used in the development of an atomic bomb.

Slaman finds the box during a clear up of the basement of the W&N building. The ampoules bear the logo of the only heavy-water plant during WW2 German occupied territory: Norsk Hydro. The plant is finally put out of action by the Allies in 1944, after being bombed and sabotaged many times. The factory was essential for the conduct of the war.

It is assumed that the box ended up at VU Amsterdam for the examination of prof. Sizoo between 1938 and 1944, where some of it remained unused and disappeared into the closet. During the different removals it was taken, and someone even wrote "from the old Sizoo" with pen on the box. The discovery is described and disclosed in the programme KEA and is being included in the heritage collection of VU Amsterdam.