Last updated on January 8th, 2023
Hydrogen is a gas that naturally exists in the universe. It is the first element of the periodic table and occurs on Earth in vast quantities of water in the ocean, the ice packs, rivers and lakes. With these 57 facts about Hydrogen, let us learn more about it.
Characteristics of Hydrogen
1. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, three times more abundant than helium (the second most widely occurring element). On Earth, hydrogen ranks ninth among the elements in abundance. [11,12]
2. Hydrogen’s atomic number is 1. It is the lightest element on the periodic table, with a standard atomic weight of 1.008.[1,12]
3. The hydrogen (H) atom has a nucleus consisting of one proton with one unit of positive electrical charge and one electron, with one unit of negative electrical charge.
4. A molecule of hydrogen is the simplest of all of all molecules, being composed of two protons and two electrons.
5. The earliest known chemical property of hydrogen is that it burns with oxygen to form water (H2O).
6. Hydrogen is transparent to visible and infrared light, and to ultraviolet light at certain wavelengths.
7. Hydrogen is colorless, odorless, tasteless and nontoxic. It is highly flammable but does not ignite unless an oxidizer and ignition source are present.[1,2]
8. Hydrogen is present in all vegetable and animal tissue plus petroleum, as part of countless carbon compounds. About 10 percent of any living organisms’ weight is hydrogen, mainly in proteins, fat, and water.
9. Hydrogen is estimated to make up more than 90 percent of all atoms and 75 percent of the mass of the universe.[12,13]
10. Hydrogen has the lowest density of all gases.
11. Hydrogen is approximately 14 times lighter than air. It is the lightest chemical element. It is so light that Earth’s gravity cannot hold it in the atmosphere and little “free” hydrogen atoms are found on Earth.
12. Hydrogen is the only molecule without neutrons. Therefore it is not a part of any family or group on the periodic table. It has unique properties not shared by other elements.
13. Hydrogen has the greatest heat conductivity of all elements. Kinetic energy is distributed faster through it than any other gas.
Natural Occurrences of Hydrogen
14. Hydrogen is found in huge amounts in stars and giant gas planets. Molecular clouds of H2 are associated with star formation. Hydrogen produces the light from the stars and the sun. Hydrogen is found in abundance in Jupiter. [9,13]
15. Its charged particles are highly influenced by magnetic and electrical fields. As solar winds they interact with the magnetosphere of the Earth, creating the aurora and Birkeland currents.
16. Hydrogen is the third most abundant element on the surface of the Earth, found especially in chemical compounds like hydrocarbons and water.
17. Hydrogen gas is produced by algae, by certain bacteria and is a natural component of flatus, as is methane.
History of Hydrogen Science
18. The production of hydrogen had been going on for years before it was actually discovered and named as an element. In the mid 1600s Paracelsus noted that a flammable gas was given off when iron was dissolved in sulfuric acid, but confused it with other flammable gases.
19. In 1671 Robert Boyle discovered the reaction of acids and iron filings which resulted in producing hydrogen.
20. In 1766 Henry Cavendish showed that this “flammable air” (hydrogen) was distinct from other combustible gases due to its density and confirmed that water was formed when hydrogen burned. He is credited with discovering hydrogen as a discrete substance.
21. In 1783 Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, coined the French equivalent of the word hydrogen, which became its official name. It comes from the Greek and means “maker of water”.
22. In the same year, the first hydrogen-filled balloon was invented and flown, powered by lift from a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen.
23. In 1806 the first internal combustion engine was built. Henri Giffard invented the first hydrogen-lifted airship in 1852.
24. James Dewar liquefied hydrogen for the first time in 1898. He produced solid hydrogen the following year.
25. In 1900 Ferdinand von Zeppelin promoted the idea of rigid airships lifted by hydrogen. The first Zeppelin was flown that year.
26. In 1913 the first chain reaction discovered was a chemical one, not nuclear. It was observed that a mixture of hydrogen and chlorine gases explodes when triggered by light. By 1918 a full explanation of the mechanism of this chain reaction was developed by Walther Nernst.
27. The lifting power of 1 cubic foot of hydrogen gas is about 0.07 lb at °C, 760 mm pressure.
28. In 1929 it was discovered that ordinary hydrogen was actually a mixture of two kinds of molecules: ortho and para-hydrogen. In 1931 and 1934 respectively, the Deuterium and Tritium isotopes were discovered.[13,19,20]
29. On May 6, 1937 the Hindenburg airship was destroyed by fire. The fire was eventually determined to be caused by the ignition of the aluminized fabric coating by static electricity but irreparable damage had been dome to hydrogen’s reputation as a lifting gas.
30. In 1937 the first hydrogen-cooled turbogenerator went into service.
31. The first hydrogen bomb was tested on November 1, 1952.
32. In 1977 the first nickel hydrogen battery was used aboard satellites. Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor were equipped with nickel-hydrogen batteries as was the dark side orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope.
33. The hydrogen fuel cells for automobiles being developed today produce no harmful emissions, only giving off water vapor and warm air. They have the potential to revolutionize transportation.
Physical and Chemical Properties, Isotopes and Reactivity
34. Hydrogen’s molecular weight is lower than all other gases. Its molecules have a velocity higher than all other gases at a given temperature, and it diffuses faster than any other gas.[28,29]
35. Hydrogen has three known isotopes. Their different names illustrate the significant differences in their properties. The most abundant hydrogen isotope is the mass 1 choice (H), also called protium. It has no neutrons, making hydrogen the only element that can exist without them.
36. The mass 2 isotope is known as heavy hydrogen or deuterium (H2). It has one proton and one neutron.
37. The mass 3 hydrogen, known as tritium (H3 or T), has one proton and two neutrons in each atom’s nucleus.
38. Hydrogen forms both positive and negative ions, and does this more readily than all other elements. It is the only atom for which the Schrödinger equation has an exact solution.
39. Two types of molecular hydrogen are known to exist. They differ in the magnetic interactions of the protons due to their spinning motions. They are regarded as two distinct modifications of hydrogen and conversions between them don’t usually occur.
40. In ortho-hydrogen, the two protons’ spins are aligned in the same direction: they are parallel. In para-hydrogen the protons’ spins are aligned in opposite directions: they are anti-parallel. The spin alignments’ relationships determine the atoms’ magnetic properties.
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