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biodeuteration laboratory

National Deuteration Facility


The National Deuteration Facility is the only facility of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. It is partially funded by the National Research Infrastructure for Australia initiative. This unique facility offers molecular deuteration using both in vivo biodeuteration and chemical deuteration techniques.

Deuteration enables 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.

How it works

Deuteration involves the production of molecules where all or part of the molecular hydrogen is in the form of the stable (non-radioactive) isotope deuterium (2H or D).

NDF how it works image
Deuterated molecules can be used to improve the delivery of drugs and vaccines, enhance the metabolic properties of some biomolecules and the structural integrity of some materials.


  • Biopolymers and biotechnology

    Biopolymers and biotechnology

    Deuterated biopolymers offer not only multiple options in creating structural contrast in polymer blends and composites in structural studies, but also insight into the biosynthetic pathways themselves.


  • Drug delivery

    Drug delivery

    Liquid crystalline systems based on lipids such as glycerol monooleate (GMO) are attracting interest for their potential as controlled release drug delivery agents.  Deuterated lipids have a role to play as subjects for neutron scattering experiments, to provide information about the structures, interactions, and kinetics of these systems.


  • Energy and gas adsorption materials

    Energy and gas adsorption materials

    Deuterated materials enable the study of site-specific gas adsorption in metal-organic frameworks using neutron diffraction techniques.


  • Food-lipid digestion

    Food-lipid digestion

    Selectively deuterated triglycerides have been used to monitor chain migration and to investigate the stereoselectivity of lipase-catalysed hydrolysis of bonds. 


  • Mechanistic studies

    Mechanistic studies

    Deuterium can be used as a marker to investigate reaction mechanisms. Mechanistic information can be derived by selectively deuterating sites of interest within a molecule and determining the final position of the deuterium atom post-reaction.

  • Molecular electronics

    Molecular electronics

    For a number of organic molecules, the replacement of hydrogen with its stable isotope, deuterium, has been shown to increase optoelectronic device stability at high voltages; light efficiency; and device lifetime.

  • Structural biology

    Structural biology

    For neutron experiments with instruments such as SANS and neutron reflectometry, deuterium labelling of proteins enables neutron-visible contrast, enhancing the effectiveness of scattering techniques in providing selective information about protein structure and interaction in multicomponent systems. For NMR experiments, partial or full deuterium labelling of non-exchangeable hydrogens in proteins can substantially enhance spectral resolution and sensitivity for large proteins (>~30kDa) and for solid-state samples.

  • Thin film nanotech devices

    Thin film nanotech devices

    The use of selected combinations of protonated and deuterated components provides contrast between the layers of OLEDs using neutron scattering techniques.

  • CT scan for imaging

    Stability for drug metabolism

    Deuteration can help stabilise drug molecules, reducing unfavourable metabolism in the body. This can be utilised for stabilising imaging agents and radiotracers.


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

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