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Hydrogen Facts: Things Your Kid Should Know

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Hydrogen is famous for being the most abundant element present in the universe.

With only one proton and electron, hydrogen has been present since the occurrence of the Big Bang. However, this element was not formally discovered until the year 1766.

The atomic number of this versatile element is one, which makes it the only element with no neutrons present. Hydrogen has three isotopes, and its common isotopes are deuterium and protium. Hydrogen is well-known for its lightness. This element is the lightest in the periodic table, with the least density.

The uses of hydrogen are endless, with its most popular use being in the production of ammonia and the purification of fossil fuels. There is continued research to incorporate hydrogen in the energy-producing sector more prominently.

To learn more hydrogen facts, keep reading!

Discovery And History

Hydrogen is quite a fascinating element in itself. What makes this element even more interesting is its history and how it was discovered. Read on to find out more!

An alchemist named Paracelsus, in the early part of the 16th century, made note of a unique phenomenon, in which bubbles that were produced due to the addition of sulphuric acid to iron fillings were flammable. Several years later, Robert Boyle, a chemist of Irish origin, made the same observation. Unfortunately, neither of these two great minds followed up on their discovery. Ultimately, it was the English scientist Henry Cavendish who recognized hydrogen was different from other gases. He did so in the year 1766. However, he did not name his discovery 'hydrogen', and instead decided to call it 'inflammable air'. Cavendish was also responsible for proving that the combustion of hydrogen leads to the formation of water. This discovery was quite significant, as it put to rest all the notions about water being a separate element.

Coming to the nomenclature of this element, it was French chemist Lavoisier who came up with the name 'hydrogen'. The name translates to 'water-former' and was given in the year 1783.

While you might think this is where the history of the discovery of hydrogen ends, there is more to it. Years later, in 1931, an isotope of hydrogen, known as deuterium, was discovered. With two times the mass of regular hydrogen, deuterium was the discovery of Harold Urey and his associates, all belonging to Columbia University. Following the discovery of deuterium, in 1932, Urey was able to create heavy water, which is a kind of water that consists of deuterium, instead of regular hydrogen.

Only three years later, in 1934, tritium, a rare isotope of hydrogen, was discovered. This radioactive isotope was discovered by Paul Harteck, Mark Oliphant, and Ernest Rutherford.

Characteristics

The lightest element and also the most abundant element, hydrogen has several interesting characteristics that make it intriguing to study.

Being the first element in the periodic table, the atomic number of hydrogen is one. This means, hydrogen only has one proton and one electron and lacks any neutrons.

Hydrogen is a part of Group 1 in the periodic table, and hence, is classified as a non-metal. However, the position of hydrogen is still a point of debate, as it is capable of exhibiting behavior similar to alkali metals or halogens. Therefore, hydrogen's position is often marked as anomalous.

Coming to the physical characteristics, under room temperature, hydrogen exists in gas form. Hydrogen gas is tasteless, colorless, and odorless. Hydrogen exists in diatomic conditions (H2), meaning two hydrogen atoms remain attached together.

Hydrogen has the lowest density among all the chemical elements. When existing as a crystalline solid, the density of hydrogen is 85.9 oz/ft3 (0.086 g/cm3). On the other hand, the density of hydrogen gas is 88.9 oz/ft3 (0.089 g/cm3). The boiling point of hydrogen gas is -432.2 degrees Fahrenheit (-252.8 degrees Celsius).

Hydrogen is known to be extremely flammable. The flame produced by hydrogen is usually pale blue. However, impurities in the air can lead to a yellow-ish flame. Despite the flame, there is no smoke when burning hydrogen.

Hydrogen readily combines with various other elements to produce commonly seen compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, methane, water, and ammonia. All these hydrogen compounds are generally referred to as hydrides.

Production And Application

Several methods are employed by small-scale laboratories to huge industries to produce hydrogen.

One of the easiest applied methods to produce hydrogen is through the electrolysis of water. When current is passed through water, hydrogen gas accumulates in the cathode, which is the positive electrode.

On an industrial scale, methane pyrolysis is used to produce hydrogen. In this method, methane is made to bubble up through a metal catalyst under high-temperature conditions. This leads to the production of gaseous hydrogen and eliminates any kind of greenhouse gas emission. Hence, methane pyrolysis is considered to be an ecologically safe method of hydrogen production.

Interestingly, solar-driven processes also lead to the formation of hydrogen. For instance, in the photoelectrochemical process, special semiconductors are used to split water into its two components; oxygen and hydrogen.

When it comes to uses, hydrogen has a ton of applications in real life. The two most common uses of hydrogen are in the production of fossil fuels and ammonia. In the production of fossil fuels, hydrogen is used in a process called hydrocracking. For the production of ammonia, Haber's process is utilized. In this method, hydrogen and nitrogen are used to make ammonia.

Liquid hydrogen plays an essential role in fueling rockets. NASA first made use of liquid hydrogen as rocket fuel in the 1950s. Furthermore, NASA also used hydrogen to run the electrical systems in their spacecraft.

Apart from all this, hydrogen is also treated as a clean fuel, and there is considerable active research going on throughout the world to understand how nations can fully convert to a hydrogen economy.

Abstract transparent hydrogen H2 molecules

Biological Reaction

Hydrogen atoms are part of quite a few biological reactions. Hence, hydrogen facts would be incomplete without understanding the biological reactions associated with hydrogen.

Microbes like microalgae and bacteria produce hydrogen through microbial biomass conversion. In such a system, the microbes act on organic matter to produce hydrogen. In the case of the photobiological process, sunlight is utilized by the microbes to release hydrogen.

In the dark reaction of photosynthesis in some organisms like cyanobacteria, electrons and protons are reduced by the organism to produce hydrogen. This reaction takes place in the chloroplast.

Talking about humans, hydrogen gas is present in the human breath. Wondering how? It is because the microorganisms in the human large intestine have hydrogenase enzymes, which lead to the evolution of hydrogen.

FAQs

What are the five uses of hydrogen?

The five main uses of hydrogen are in making hydrogen bombs, refining petroleum, welding, production of hydrochloric acid, and rocket fuel.

What is special about hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the only element in the periodic table that does not have any neutrons. This makes hydrogen quite special.

How many valence electrons does hydrogen have?

Hydrogen has only one valence electron.

What is a hydrogen bond?

A hydrogen bond is a kind of weak bond that is caused due to electrostatic forces. This bond forms between a hydrogen atom and a considerably electronegative element.

What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a hydride. It is represented by the formula H2O2.

How many neutrons does hydrogen have?

Hydrogen has no neutrons.

How many electrons does hydrogen have?

Hydrogen has a singular electron.

What is hydrogen bonding?

The weak bond that is observed between hydrogen and an electronegative element is referred to as hydrogen bonding.

What is hydrogen used for?

Hydrogen is an essential component in the production of ammonia. Furthermore, nitrogenous fertilizers are also made using nitrogen.

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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