Elemental hydrogen is the first one of chemical elements in the periodic table. Its atomic number is one and its weight is 1.008. It is one of the stable natural gas available in the universe. Besides, it is also part of many bio-molecules like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc.
In elemental form, it is highly inflammable. Further, it is also available in the form of isotopes like deuterium, tritium, etc.
All these properties of hydrogen make it highly useful.
Important Uses of Hydrogen
- Rocket fuel for space programs
- Automobile fuel.
- In petroleum refinery
- Gas welding
- Ultraviolet lamps
- Production of electricity
- As reducing agent
- Chemical analysis
- Structural identification
- In gas chromatography
- In hot balloons
- Mass destructive bombs
1. As rocket fuel for space programs: Hydrogen is used as signature fuel for the American space program. It is a powerful propellant for rockets. It has lowest molecular weight and is said to burn with extreme intensity.
In combination with oxygen it is said to yield highest specific impulse in relation to the amount of fuel consumed.
2. As fuel for automobiles: Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel which burns on reaction with oxygen. It is an exciting concept which aims to power the automobiles by use of hydrogen instead of petroleum fuels.
This technology is being developed for use in large scale as a substitute for petroleum oils based engines. The advantage of this technology is lack of air pollution as there is no harmful gas emitted by ignition.
The hydrogen fuel cell technology is also used in submarines, bikes, etc.
3. In petroleum refinery: Hydrogen gas is widely used in petroleum industry to remove sulfur content. Besides it is also used for hydroisomerisation where in normal parafins are converted to iso parafins. Dearomatisation to convert aromatic to cycloalkanes. Hydrocracking to break long chain hydrocarbons to shorter ones.
4. Gas welding: Hydrogen gas is used in gas welding to generate high temperature of 4000°C. This is called as atomic hydrogen welding. Besides generating heat, hydrogen also acts as shielding gas by which it prevent metals from reacting with other elements like nitrogen, carbon during the process.
5. Ultraviolet lamps: Hydrogen gas in the form of deuterium is used in deuterium arc lamps. These lamps are used to produce ultraviolet light. These lamps have a tungsten filament which generates heat. The heat in the bulb excites the deuterium atoms (H²) which produce light in the ultraviolet region. These lamps are used explicitly in spectroscopic analysis in labs.
6. As a reducing agent. Hydrogen acts as both a electro-negative and electro-positive element. This electro-positive nature makes it useful in redox reactions. Addition of hydrogen is termed as reduction while removal is called as oxidation.
7. In chemical analysis: Hydrogen is used in various methods of chemical analysis. These methods include especially the atomic absorption spectroscopy. Here the hydrogen is used as fuel to generate heat in the process of experimentation. The ability of hydrogen to ignite is used in producing the neutral atoms in the process.
8. In structural identification: Many compounds have complex chemistry. Different methods are used to study the structure and the nature of bonds in between the atoms and the molecules. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the techniques which exploit the proton character to define the structure. The technique is also called as proton NMR. The presence of hydrogen in many bio-molecules is utilized for the purpose. Hence the presence of hydrogen helps in structural identification.
9. Gas chromatography: Hydrogen is one of the gases which can be used as mobile phase in gas chromatography. This method is used to separate volatile substances from a mixture for identification.
10. Deuterium for electricity generation: As already seen before, the isotope of hydrogen is used to make heavy water (D2O). This heavy water is used in nuclear reactors as a coolant and also nuclear moderator to slow down the neutrons.
11. In balloons: Hydrogen was used in hot balloons to fly in the air.
Due to its lightweight, low cost, hydrogen gas was used in air balloons for flight.
But due to its explosiveness, it is being replaced by helium one of the monoatomic elements.
12. In mass destructive bombs. This may not be the use of humans except for destruction. But it has been developed as a powerful weapon of mass destruction.
It relies on the principle of nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms isotopes.
13.Hydrogen peroxide: This is a hydrogen compound in combination with oxygen as H2O2. Hydrogen peroxide is a routine sterilizing agent used in clinic and hospital. It is primarily used for cleaning of wounds, cuts and other damaged tissue portions.
Besides, hydrogen present in substances provides hydrogen bond which is weak forces of attraction within or in between molecules. It uniquely combines with oxygen and also to a small extent with nitrogen atoms to produce these attraction forces.
In research, it is also used for testing the anti-oxidant potential of enzymes like catalase.