Properties and uses of Hydrogen gas

Electronic configuration of hydrogen


Electronic configuration of hydrogen

Properties of hydrogen gas

  • colourless
  • odourless
  • tasteless
  • slightly soluble in water
  • neutral to litmus
  • lightest known gas
  • 14.4 times less denser than air
  • highly flammable

Laboratory preparation of hydrogen

Laboratory preparation of hydrogen

Laboratory preparation of hydrogen


  • Setup the apparatus as shown above.
  • In the conical flask add a fairly reactive metal such as magnesium or zinc.
  • Open the tap so that the hydrochloric acid runs into the flask.
  • Hydrochloric acid reacts with the metal to produce a salt and hydrogen as follows:
    • 2HCl(aq) + Zn(s) → ZnCl2(aq) + H2(g)
  • The hydrogen is collected above water in the graduated tube.

Test for hydrogen gas

Ignite the gas with a burning splint and it burns with loud pop.

The position of hydrogen on the Periodic Table

On most Periodic Tables, hydrogen is often placed by itself because of its unique properties. Hydrogen behaves like a Group I element because it has 1 electron in the outer shell and also like a Group IV element because its electronic configuration is 1 electron short of a noble gas.

On other Periodic Tables it is shown at the top of either Group I or Group VII.

The table below shows the comparisons of the properties of hydrogen, a Group I element and a Group VII element.

Lithium (Group 1)HydrogenFluorine (Group VII)
Forms a positive ionForms either positive or negative ionsForms a negative ion
1 electron in outer shell1 electron in outer and 1 electron short of a full outer shell1 electron short of a full outer shell
Loses 1 electron to form a noble gas configurationNeeds 1 electron to form a noble gas configurationNeeds 1 electron to form a noble gas configuration

Hydrogen gas as a reducing agent for metal oxides

Hydrogen is a reducing agent and it removes oxygen from oxides of less reactive on the electrochemical series. Oxides of iron, lead and copper can be reduced by hydrogen as shown by the equations below.

  • Fe3O4(s) + 4H2(g) → 3Fe(s) + 4H2O(l)
  • CuO(s) + H2(g) → Cu(s) + H2O(l)
  • PbO(s) + H2(g) → Pb(s) + H2O(l)

Hydrogen itself is oxidised to water when it reduces a metal oxide to a metal.

Reactions of hydrogen gas with electronegative elements

Hydrogen reacts with electronegative elements as follows:

  • H2(g) + Cl2(g) → 2HCl(g) (hydrogen chloride)
  • H2(g) + Br2(g) → 2HBr(g) (hydrogen bromide)
  • H2(g) + I2(g) → 2HI(g) (hydrogen iodide)
  • 3H2(g) + N2(g) → 2NH3(g) (ammonia)
  • H2(g) + S(s) → H2S(g) (hydrogen sulphide)
  • 2H2(g) + O2(g) → 2H2O(l) (water)

Uses of hydrogen

  • Welding metals – the oxyhydrogen flame uses oxygen and hydrogen to form a hot flame of over 2000°C.
  • Manufacture of margarine – hydrogen is used in the hardening of oils to make solid fat such as margarine.
  • Making petrol – in countries with large reserves of coal, synthetic petrol is manufacture by hydrogenation of coal.
  • Manufacture of ammonia – hydrogen and nitrogen are used to manufacture ammonia in the haber process.
  • As rocket fuel – some rocket engines use liquid hydrogen as a propellant. An oxygen-hydrogen liquid mixture is most powerful known propellant.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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