Hydrogen is a chemical element that represents 75% of the total mass of the known universe. It is also the lightest and simplest element, consisting of only one proton and one electron. Nevertheless, it is the most locally abundant element, making up 2/3 of all molecules found on our planet.
Hydrogen is a gas at room temperature but condenses to a liquid at a temperature of -252.8˚C, and freezes from liquid to solid at -259.2˚C. It contains up to three times more energy per unit mass than diesel.
Its combustion releases neither CO2, SOX, nor fine particulates: it only produces water.
Where can hydrogen be found?
Hydrogen can be found in stars that use it as fuel to produce energy and in “empty” spaces between the Stars. On Earth, it does not typically exist by itself in nature and must be produced from compounds that contain it, for example, water (H2O).
The only exception is a very small percentage that exists in the Earth’s atmosphere. This reduced percentage is due to its low density; the Earth’s gravity is not able to contain it, thus the hydrogen escapes Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. The mass flow rate lost is approximately 95,000 tons of hydrogen per year.
Where is hydrogen used?
The majority of the hydrogen produced worldwide is consumed in the production of ammonia, and in the treatment of petrochemicals and methanol. In addition, almost all current energy sources contain carbon and hydrogen. For this reason, renewable hydrogen represents a shift away from the carbon-emitting energy sources that have become commonplace since the industrial revolution.
Hydrogen is a light and extremely powerful rocket propellant. When combined with an oxidizer such as liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen yields the highest specific impulse in relation to the amount of propellant consumed of any known rocket propellant.
About 10% of the mass of any given living organism is made up of hydrogen—mainly water, proteins, and fats.
- Liquid hydrogen has the lowest density of any liquid.
- Hydrogen is the only element that can exist without neutrons.
- Hydrogen is believed to be one of three elements produced in the Big Bang.
- We owe most of the energy on our planet to hydrogen because the Sun’s nuclear fusion process converts hydrogen to helium releasing large amounts of energy.