6 Hydrogen (H) Facts

Hydrogen, the most basic of all chemical elements, contains only one proton, 1 electron and no neutorns. Hydrogen is actually the oldest element in the universe, being formed between 3 and 20 minutes after the Big Bang. These, of course, are only a couple of the interesting facts about hydrogen.

1. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, consisting of about 75% the universe's elemental mass.

2. Elemental hydrogen is actually relatively rare on Earth, and so is produced from hydrocarbons, a chemical compound composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon. This hydrogen is used mostly for the production of gasoline and ammonia.

3. Hydrogen is extreamly flammable and will automatically ignite at a temperature of 560 °C. When burned, hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O) and 286 kJ/mol of energy. In a pure hydrogen/oxygen environment the flame produced burns in the ultraviolet color range, meaning you cannot see the flame with your naked eye. This combustion is used to propel the Space Shuttle into space.

4. Hydrogen has three naturally occuring isotopes, all three of them named, and is the only element to have different names in use today. 1H, called protium is the most abundant at more than 99.98%. 2H, named deuterium, thought to be all formed at the Big Bang. 3H, called tritrium, is radioactive, and decays into helium-3 with a half-life of 12.34 years.

Triangulum Nebula5. Hydrogen is essential in the fusion reactions of stars, in both the proton-proton reaction and the CNO cycle. The proton-proton reaction converts hydrogen to helium and is the dominate reaction in stars like our Sun.

6. Hydrogen provided the lift for the first reliable form of air travel, used in the airship invented by Henri Giffard, which evolved into airships (most notibly the Zepplin). This continued through World War I, until May 6th, 1937, the German airship, Hindenburg, burst into flames over New Jersey.