What element is found in peanut butter, rocket fuel, water, and the planet Jupiter?
You guessed it—hydrogen! Keep reading to find out more about the most abundant element in our universe.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the very first element on the periodic table, and it is the most common element in the universe, making up about 75% of its mass. Hydrogen is extremely flammable, meaning it catches fire easily.
It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. That means you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, even though it’s just about everywhere.
Hydrogen is the simplest atom possible. It has only one proton in the nucleus, which is orbited by only one electron. It is the only element that does not have any neutrons.
When two hydrogen atoms combine with oxygen, they make water, so there are two hydrogen atoms in every molecule of water in the universe. Hydrogen is also in the Sun and other stars.
It also makes up most of Jupiter and the other gas giant planets. Life cannot exist without hydrogen, because it is in nearly all of the molecules in living things.
How was hydrogen discovered?
In 1671, an Irish chemist named Robert Boyle produced hydrogen while experimenting with iron and acids. Other scientists produced hydrogen over the years as well, but none of them realized that hydrogen was its own individual element.
Then, in 1766, a British scientist named Henry Cavendish realized that hydrogen was an element while doing an experiment with hydrochloric acid and zinc. In 1781, Cavendish also discovered that hydrogen produces water when it burns.
Hydrogen was given its name by yet another scientist, the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier. The name comes from the Greek words “hydro,” meaning water, and “genes,” meaning creator, because hydrogen “creates water” when it burns.
How is hydrogen used?
We know that hydrogen is in water, the Sun, other stars, the human body, and almost every molecule of every living thing, but it is used in plenty of man-made products as well.
When combined with nitrogen, hydrogen is used to make ammonia for fertilizers, which help plants grow. It is also used in the making of materials like gas and plastics.
Hydrogen can be found in fats and oils such as peanut oil. It is used in products like peanut butter to hold ingredients together and make food stay fresh longer.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, hydrogen was used in air travel until an airship called the Hindenburg caught on fire in 1937. Hydrogen was then considered too flammable to be used in filling airships.
Liquid hydrogen is combined with liquid oxygen to make rocket fuel.
Hydrogen peroxide can be used to bleach hair, clean, and sometimes to sterilize cuts or scrapes.
In the future, scientists hope that hydrogen can be used to fuel cars as well, because it would be much better for the environment than the gasoline we use today.
Hydrogen can be converted into electricity when it reacts with oxygen by using a device called a hydrogen fuel cell. The problem is that hydrogen fuel cells are extremely expensive, so scientists are working to find a way to make the use of hydrogen fuel more practical and affordable.
Facts about Hydrogen
-For liquid hydrogen to exist, high pressure and an extremely low temperature are needed (-423 degrees Fahrenheit, -253 degrees Celsius, to be exact. Brrr!)
-The Hindenburg fire occurred in New Jersey and was filmed and broadcast on live radio. It was soon after this that hydrogen stopped being used in airships.
– Humans can’t breathe in hydrogen’s pure form, when it is not mixed with oxygen.
-About 10% of the weight of living organisms is hydrogen. This mostly comes from water weight, but hydrogen is also in proteins and fats.
-Most of the energy on planet Earth comes from hydrogen. When hydrogen atoms are under extreme pressure, they change into helium, releasing large amounts of energy. This happens to hydrogen elements in the Sun, creating the sunlight that we see here on Earth.
-Other elements are part of groups or families that share similar characteristics, but hydrogen does not belong to any group or family because it is so unique and different.
-Hydrogen is extremely light. It is 14 times lighter than air!
Now you know all about the universe’s most common element. Hydrogen is pretty fascinating, isn’t it?