Hydrogen is a very important gas in chemical industrial manufacturing processes and has a wide application in both organic and inorganic chemical production processes in refineries, chemical industries and laboratories. Here are some uses of Hydrogen.
- Hydrogen is used in the manufacture of ammonia, methanol and hydrochloric acid.
- Hydrogen is a constituent of so many gaseous fuels such as water gas and coal gas. Liquid hydrogen is used as rocket fuel.
- The low density of hydrogen makes it very useful in filling balloons. However, since it is highly flammable, this use is limited to meteorological studies and other scientific experiments.
- Hydrogen is used in oxy-hydrogen flames to produce temperatures of over 2000C that can be used to melt metals.
- Hydrogen is also used in atomic hydrogen flames. When hydrogen is passed through an electric arc, its molecules absorb energy and break up to form atoms which recombine when they are out of the arc and in the process evolving large amounts of energy in the form of heat.
- Hydrogen is used in the solidify oils to give fats such as margarine in a process known as hydrogenation of fats. This is carried out under high pressure and in the presence of nickel which serves as a catalyst.
- Hydrogen is passed through a mixture of oil and powdered coal at high temperature and pressure to yield a mixture of hydrocarbons from which synthetic petrol can be extracted by fractional distillation. This type of petrol is more expensive than ordinary petrol and is used in countries with plenty of coal but no petrol.
Isotopes of Hydrogen
Hydrogen exists in three different isotopic forms. The isotopes of hydrogen are Hydrogen also known as protium, 11H, heavy hydrogen known as deuterium, 21H or D, and tritium, 31H or T, with relative atomic masses of 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Deuterium is chemically similar to protium except that it is slightly less reactive. Deuterium also forms an oxide, D2O, which is similar to water, H2O. Deuterium oxide is commonly referred to as heavy water because it is about 1.1 times heavier than water. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen and is rarely found in ordinary hydrogen.