Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Profiles of the periodic table: Hydrogen

Hydrogen gas

By Carcharodontosaurus, age 10, DXS Jr Contributor 

This post is our continuation of our series on the periodic table. Our first post was about helium.

Hydrogen is the lightest gas known. A molecule of hydrogen gas is two hydrogens bonded together, known as H2. A water molecule is H2O or two hydrogens plus one oxygen. 
A molecule of hydrogen gas consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded together.
In the Sun, four hydrogens crash into each other and fuse to form a helium. Some of the mass in this process is converted to energy, which can fuel more reactions. In our Sun, this series of reactions can go on for about 10 billion years. Albert Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2, describes how much energy results from each of these reactions. The c in that equation is the speed of light, which is 670,616,629 miles per hour!

The Sun. Image credit: NASA, via Wikimedia Commons.
Hydrogen’s atomic mass is about 1.00794 atomic mass units, a unit based on carbon, an element we’ll be posting about later.  A common hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron. Here is a hydrogen joke: One hydrogen atom says to another, “I think I lost an electron!” The other hydrogen asks, “Are you sure?” And the first hydrogen answers: “I’m positive!” One form, or isotope, of hydrogen that has more mass, called deuterium, also has a neutron in its nucleus, in addition to the proton.
A rendering of deuterium, a hydrogen with one proton and one neutron
in the nucleus (red and green) and one electron. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Hydrogen was used in the Hindenberg but that was a big mistake because hydrogen is extremely flammable. 

The Hindenberg. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.
Hydrogen is used in a hydrogen bomb (duh) designed for mass destruction everywhere within its range. This bomb relies on fusion like what happens in the Sun. In a hydrogen bomb, two isotopes of hydrogen--deuterium and another isotope that has two neutrons, called tritium--are involved in the fusion reaction. Since a hydrogen with two nuclear particles is called deuterium and a hydrogen with three is called tritium, you might think a regular everyday hydrogen is called unium, but it’s not. Instead, it’s called protium or… just hydrogen.
A rendering of tritium, a hydrogen with one proton (red), two neutrons
(green), and one electron (blue). Via Wikimedia Commons.

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