Hydrogen, or H2, is the lightest of all gases. Commonly found in nature in compounds with other elements, it is the most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen is a component of water, minerals and acids, as well as an essential part of all hydrocarbons and essentially all other organic substances. In fact, 98 percent of the known universe - most notably the sun and stars - consists of hydrogen.

Colorless, odorless, tasteless and nontoxic, hydrogen exists as a gas at atmospheric temperatures and pressures. A stable molecule because of its high bond strength, hydrogen becomes reactive at elevated temperatures or with the aid of catalysts. When cooled to its boiling point of -423°F (-253°C), hydrogen becomes a liquid that is approximately 93 percent lighter than water. All other gases - except helium - become solids at this temperature.

Hydrogen is flammable and burns in air with a pale blue, almost invisible flame. In its gaseous form, hydrogen dissipates quickly. These unique properties call for strict safety measures in hydrogen use and storage.

Production of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is produced industrially as a gas or a liquid by several methods. These include:

  • Steam reforming, a reaction of natural gas (methane) or other light hydrocarbons (ethane or propane) with steam in the presence of a catalyst.
  • Electrolysis of water, a process which transforms water into its elemental parts through the use of an electric current.
  • Ammonia dissociation, the breaking up of ammonia into its simpler components, namely hydrogen and nitrogen.
  • Partial oxidation, a reaction of hydrocarbons (such as natural gas, naphtha, petroleum coke or coal) with oxygen to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide In addition, hydrogen is obtained as a by-product of some refining and chemical production processes.


Hydrogen finds use in diverse applications covering many industries, including:

  • Food to hydrogenate liquid oils (such as soybean, fish, cottonseed and corn), converting them to semisolid materials such as shortenings, margarine and peanut butter.
  • Chemical Processing primarily to manufacture ammonia and methanol, but also to hydrogenate non-edible oils for soaps, insulation, plastics, ointments and other specialty chemicals.
  • Metal Production and Fabrication to serve as a protective atmosphere in high-temperature operations such as stainless steel manufacturing; commonly mixed with argon for welding austenitic stainless. Also used to support plasma welding and cutting operations.
  • Pharmaceuticals to produce sorbitol used in cosmetics, adhesives, surfactants, and vitamins A and C.
  • Aerospace to fuel spacecraft, but also to power life-support systems and computers, yielding drinkable water as a by-product.
  • Electronic to create specially controlled atmospheres in the production of semi-conductors circuits.
  • Petroleum Recovery and Refinery ... to enhance performance of petroleum products by removing organic sulfur from crude oil, as well as to convert heavy crude to lighter, easier to refine, and more marketable products. Hydrogen's use in reformulated gas products helps refiners meet Clean Air Act requirements.
  • Power Generation to serve as a heat transfer medium for cooling high speed turbine generators. Also used to react with oxygen in the cooling water system of boiling water nuclear reactors to suppress intergranular stress corrosion cracking in the cooling system.

Hydrogen Mixtures

(i) N2 + H2
1. 92: 8 Mix
2. 86: 14Mix

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