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Chemical Fact Sheet

Hydrogen

Chemical Abstract Number (CAS #) 1333-74-0
Synonyms MOLECULAR-HYDROGEN-;H-;PROTIUM
Analytical Methods N/A
Atomic Symbol H

Synopsis from the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 92nd Edition 2011-2013

Hydrogen — (Gr. hydro, water, and genes, forming), H; at. wt. 1.00794(7); at. no. 1; m.p. –259.1 °C; b.p. –252.76 °C; tc –240.18; density 0.08988 g/L; density (liquid) 0.0708 g/mL (–253 °C); density (solid) 0.0706 g/mL (–262 °C); valence 1. Hydrogen was prepared many years before it was recognized as a distinct substance by Cavendish in 1766. It was named by Lavoisier. Hydrogen is the most abundant of all elements in the universe, and it is thought that the heavier elements were, and still are, being built from hydrogen and helium. It has been estimated that hydrogen makes up more than 90% of all the atoms or three quarters of the mass of the universe. It is found in the sun and most stars, and plays an important part in the proton–proton reaction and carbon–nitrogen cycle, which accounts for the energy of the sun and stars. It is thought that hydrogen is a major component of the planet Jupiter and that at some depth in the planet’s interior the pressure is so great that solid molecular hydrogen is converted into solid metallic hydrogen. In 1973, it was reported that a group of Russian experimenters may have produced metallic hydrogen at a pressure of 2.8 Mbar. At the transition the density changed from 1.08 to 1.3 g/cm3. Earlier, in 1972, a Livermore (California) group also reported on a similar experiment in which they observed a pressure-volume point centered at 2 Mbar. It has been predicted that metallic hydrogen may be metastable; others have predicted it would be a superconductor at room temperature. On Earth, hydrogen occurs chiefly in combination with oxygen in water, but it is also present in organic matter such as living plants, petroleum, coal, etc. It is present as the free element in the atmosphere, but only to the extent of less than 1 ppm by volume. It is the lightest of all gases, and combines with other elements, sometimes explosively, to form compounds. Great quantities of hydrogen are required commercially for the fixation of nitrogen from the air in the Haber ammonia process and for the hydrogenation of fats and oils. It is also used in large quantities in methanol production, in hydrodealkylation, hydrocracking, and hydrodesulfurization. It is also used as a rocket fuel, for welding, for production of hydrochloric acid, for the reduction of metallic ores, and for filling balloons. The lifting power of 1 ft3 of hydrogen gas is about 0.076 lb at 0 °C, 760 mm pressure. Production of hydrogen in the U.S. alone now amounts to about 3 billion cubic feet per year. It is prepared by the action of steam on heated carbon, by decomposition of certain hydrocarbons with heat, by the electrolysis of water, or by the displacement from acids by certain metals. It is also produced by the action of sodium or potassium hydroxide on aluminum. Liquid hydrogen is important in cryogenics and in the study of superconductivity, as its melting point is only a 20 °C above absolute zero. Hydrogen consists of three isotopes, most of which is 1H. The ordinary isotope of hydrogen, H, is known as protium. In 1932, Urey announced the discovery of a stable isotope, deuterium (2H or D) with an atomic weight of 2. Deuterium is present in natural hydrogen to the extent of 0.015%. Two years later an unstable isotope, tritium (3H), with The Elements 4-17 an atomic weight of 3 was discovered. Tritium has a half-life of about 12.32 years. Tritium atoms are also present in natural hydrogen but in a much smaller proportion. Tritium is readily produced in nuclear reactors and is used in the production of the hydrogen bomb. It is also used as a radioactive agent in making luminous paints, and as a tracer. On August 27, 2001 Russian, French, and Japanese physicists working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research near Moscow reported they had made “super-heavy hydrogen,” which had a nucleus with one proton and four neutrons. Using an accelerator, they used a beam of helium-6 nuclei to strike a hydrogen target, which resulted in the occasional production of a hydrogen-5 nucleus plus a helium-2 nucleus. These unstable particles quickly disintegrated. This resulted in two protons from the He-2, a triton, and two neutrons from the H-5 breakup. Deuterium gas is readily available, without permit, at about $1/l. Heavy water, deuterium oxide (D2O), which is used as a moderator to slow down neutrons, is available without permit at a cost of 6c to $1/g, depending on quantity and purity. About 1000 tons (4,400,000 kg) of deuterium oxide (heavy water) are now in use at the Sudbury (Ontario) Neutrino Observatory. This observatory is taking data to provide new revolutionary insight into the properties of neutrinos and into the core of the sun. The heavy water is on loan from Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL). The observatory and detectors are located 6800 ft (2072 m) deep in the Creighton mine of the International Nickel Co., near Sudbury. The heavy water is contained in an acrylic vessel, 12 m in diameter. Neutrinos react with the heavy water to produce Cherenkov radiation. This light is then detected with 9600 photomultiplier tubes surrounding the vessel. The detector laboratory is immensely clean to reduce background radiation, which otherwise hides the very weak signals from neutrinos. Quite apart from isotopes, it has been shown that hydrogen gas under ordinary conditions is a mixture of two kinds of molecules, known as ortho- and parahydrogen, which differ from one another by the spins of their electrons and nuclei. Normal hydrogen at room temperature contains 25% of the para form and 75% of the ortho form. The ortho form cannot be prepared in the pure state. Since the two forms differ in energy, the physical properties also differ. The melting and boiling points of parahydrogen are about 0.1 °C lower than those of normal hydrogen. Consideration is being given to an entire economy based on solar- and nucleargenerated hydrogen. Located in remote regions, power plants would electrolyze sea water; the hydrogen produced would travel to distant cities by pipelines. Pollution-free hydrogen could replace natural gas, gasoline, etc., and could serve as a reducing agent in metallurgy, chemical processing, refining, etc. It could also be used to convert trash into methane and ethylene. Public acceptance, high capital investment, and the high present cost of hydrogen with respect to current fuels are but a few of the problems facing establishment of such an economy. Hydrogen is being investigated as a substitute for deep-sea diving applications below 300 m. Hydrogen is readily available from air product suppliers.


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