The uses of hydrogen are listed here in both the gaseous form and elemental applications.
Hydrogen is available as natural gas in the atmosphere. But when isolated in pure form, it is highly inflammable.
Further, it is also available in the form of isotopes like deuterium, tritium, etc. All these properties of hydrogen contribute to its uses.
Important Uses of Hydrogen
- Gas welding
- Automobile fuel.
- In petroleum refinery
- Ultraviolet lamps
- Production of electricity
- As a reducing agent
- Potentiometry and Chemical analysis
- Structural identification
- In gas chromatography
- In hot balloons
- Rocket fuel for space programs
- Mass destructive bombs
Hydrogen is the first element in the periodic table, with an atomic number of 1 and a weight of 1.008.
It is also part of many biomolecules like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc. So, it has a wide variety of applications.
1. Gas welding
- Hydrogen gas is one of the gases used for the welding process.
- It is used to join metals as it can generate a high temperature of 4000°C.
- This high temperature leads to the melting of metals.
- The molten metals cool down and fuse, joining the broken surfaces.
- Besides generating heat, hydrogen also acts as a shielding gas.
- Metals are highly reactive at high temperatures and can react with other elements like nitrogen and carbon.
- Hydrogen prevents the metal from reacting with other elements during the process.
This process is also called atomic hydrogen welding.
2. As fuel for automobiles
- Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel that burns in reaction with oxygen.
- Though battery technology EV vehicles are gaining popularity, this technology cannot be reliable for airplanes and helicopters.
- So, for aviation fuels, hydrogen fuel cell technology is being explored instead of petroleum fuels.
- The advantage of this technology is the lack of air pollution, as no harmful gas is emitted by ignition.
- Hydrogen fuel cell technology is also used in submarines, bikes, etc.
3. In a petroleum refinery
- Hydrogen gas is widely used in the petroleum industry to remove sulfur content.
- Besides, it is also used for the process of hydroisomerization, wherein normal paraffin is converted to isoparaffin.
- It is also employed for dearomatization to convert aromatic to cycloalkanes.
- Also, hydrocracking breaks long-chain hydrocarbons into shorter ones.
4. Ultraviolet lamps
- Hydrogen gas in the form of deuterium (D2) 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 (D²), which produce light in the ultraviolet region. These lamps are used explicitly in spectroscopic analysis in labs.
5. In chemical analysis
- Hydrogen is used for chemical analysis in potentiometry and atomic absorption spectroscopy.
- In potentiometry, it is used as Hydrogen electrodes for titrations.
- Here hydrogen gas is passed at a constant speed at one atmospheric pressure into the reference electrode.
- The purity of the hydrogen can affect the analysis of these potentiometric titrations.
- In atomic absorption spectroscopy, it is used as fuel to generate heat.
- The ability of hydrogen to ignite is used in producing neutral atoms in the process.
6. In structural identification of compounds
- Many compounds have complex chemistry.
- Different methods are used to study the structure and the nature of bonds between atoms and molecules.
- Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the techniques which exploits the proton character to define the molecular structure.
- The technique is also called proton NMR.
- The presence of hydrogen in many bio-molecules is utilized for this purpose.
Hence the presence of hydrogen is exploited for structural identification.
7. Gas chromatography
- This method is used to separate volatile substances from a mixture for identification.
8. As a reducing agent
- Hydrogen acts as both an electro-negative and electropositive element.
- This electro-positive nature makes it useful in redox reactions.
- The addition of hydrogen in a chemical reaction is termed reduction, while removal is called oxidation.
9. 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.
10. In balloons
One of the first uses of Hydrogen gas was in flying hot balloons 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.
- Helium is stable gas and also one of the members of monoatomic elements.
- Unlike hydrogen, it is highly non-reactive.
11. As rocket fuel for space programs
- Hydrogen is used as the signature fuel for the American space program.
- It is a powerful propellant for rockets. It has the lowest molecular weight and is said to burn with extreme intensity.
- In combination with oxygen, it is said to yield the highest specific impulse in relation to the amount of fuel consumed.
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 clinics and hospitals.
- It is primarily used for cleaning wounds, cuts, and other damaged tissue portions.
- Besides, in chemistry, you will learn about hydrogen bonds, which are weak forces of attraction between molecules.
- It uniquely combines with oxygen and, 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.