Hydrogen

November 24, 2012 2:04 pm

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Hydrogen
Every day the Sun’s rays provide light that allows us to see. This light comes from hydrogen. Stars like the Sun are mostly made of hydrogen. Stars are actually giant nuclear reactors that burn hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most common substance in the universe—there is more hydrogen in the universe than all other substances put together!
WHAT IS HYDROGEN?
Hydrogen is an invisible, odorless gas. It is the lightest chemical element and is about 14 times lighter than air. Balloons filled with hydrogen float even better than balloons filled with helium. Filling balloons with hydrogen isn’t a great idea, however, because hydrogen catches fire very easily.
Atoms are extremely tiny bits of matter. Hydrogen atoms are smaller and simpler than atoms of any other element. Hydrogen atoms easily join up with the larger atoms of other elements to form substances called compounds. Water, for example, is a compound made up of atoms of hydrogen and oxygen. Nearly all the hydrogen atoms on Earth are locked up in solid or liquid compounds such as water. Hydrogen is only very rarely found as a gas on our planet.
WHAT IS HYDROGEN USED FOR?
Fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are rich in hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are compounds made up of atoms of hydrogen and carbon. These fuels provide much of the energy we use to move our vehicles and to generate electricity.
Factories often use hydrogen and hydrogen compounds, such as ammonia, to produce many of the metals we need in our everyday lives. The ability of hydrogen to burn in air means that it might be important to scientists as they search for the fuels of the future. Car manufacturers are developing cars that are powered by pure hydrogen. Hydrogen already powers the engines of the space shuttle.
All living creatures have hydrogen in their bodies. Even though our bodies appear to be solid, the human body is made up mostly of water. Other compounds of hydrogen, such as sugar, are found in the cells of every plant and animal.
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