Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element found in the entire Universe. Chemically, it exhibits nonmetallic properties. When at room temperature, it is in the gaseous state. It is the smallest and lightest of all elements on the periodic table. Even though elemental hydrogen is rare on the earth, it is a constituent of many important compounds. It is vital for our life as it is one of the key constituents of water. It is also present in most of the organic compounds. Now, let us have a look at some of the everyday uses of hydrogen.
Common Uses of Hydrogen in Everyday Life
As a fuel
Hydrogen is an excellent fuel. This is because its calorific value is very high, which means that it produces large amount of energy on combustion. The hydrogen fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that produces electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. It is considered as a clean, environment-friendly fuel as it produces only water vapor as the end product. The main uses of fuel cells are as power resources for remote locations like submarines, remote weather stations, spacecrafts, etc. Liquid hydrogen is used as a fuel in rockets. Deuterium, also known as heavy hydrogen, is an isotope of hydrogen and is used as a fuel in nuclear reactors for nuclear fusion reaction.
For inflating balloons
Due to its low weight, one of the key uses of hydrogen gas is in balloons. Today, meteorologists use it in meteorological or weather balloons. These balloons carry necessary instruments high up in the air in order to record some vital information related to atmospheric conditions. During World War I, this element was used in balloon airships or dirigibles, but now it is no longer used as it is highly combustible in nature.
There are a wide range of industrial uses of hydrogen in the chemical industry, food industry, paint industry, fertilizer industry, and so on. In the food industry, hydrogen is used to manufacture hydrogenated vegetable oils like butter, margarine, etc. In this process, vegetable oils are chemically treated with hydrogen in the presence of nickel as a catalyst to produce solidified fatty substances. In the petrochemical industry, it is used for refining crude oils. In the welding industry, the welding torches that are used for melting steel consist of hydrogen. In the chemical industry, it is used as a reducing agent for extraction of metals from their ores. For instance, tungsten which is mined in the form of tungsten oxide is treated with hydrogen to obtain pure tungsten and water.
For chemical compounds
Hydrogen is required for the manufacturing of many important chemical compounds. One of them is ammonia which is used for making fertilizers. It is used for making different types of important acids such as hydrochloric acid as well as bases. It is used for the production of methyl alcohol which is required in paints, varnishes, inks, etc. Another important compound of hydrogen is hydrogen peroxide. There are so many uses of hydrogen peroxide in our homes. It has amazing medicinal values and is an integral part of our first aid box. It can be used to heal small cuts and wounds and used as a disinfectant on toenail fungus. It can be diluted with water and used as a mouthwash to kill germs and bacteria, heal canker sores, and for teeth whitening. There are some non-medical uses of hydrogen peroxide as well. It is used as a bleaching agent for cleaning homes, for stain removal from clothes, and as a pest controller in gardens.
However, one thing to be kept in mind is that hydrogen in its pure form is a potentially dangerous substance and needs to be handled with great care. If it leaks out from its storage container into open air, it can cause an outbreak of fire. Therefore, it has to be stored properly with adequate precautionary measures.