Lightest chemical element, chemical symbol H, atomic number 1. A colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gas, it occurs as the diatomic molecule H. Its atom consists of one proton (the nucleus) and one electron; the isotopes deuterium and tritium have an additional one and two nuclear neutrons, respectively. Though only the ninth most abundant element on Earth, it represents about 75% of all matter in the universe. Hydrogen was formerly used to fill airships; nonflammable helium has replaced it. It is used to synthesize ammonia, ethanol, aniline, and methanol; to treat petroleum fuels; as a reducing agent (see reduction) and to supply a reducing atmosphere; to make hydrogen chloride (see hydrochloric acid) and hydrogen bromide; and in hydrogenation (e.g., of fats). Liquid hydrogen (boiling point 423 °F [252.8 °C]) is used in scientific and commercial applications to produce extremely low temperatures and as a rocket propellant and a fuel for fuel cells. Combustion of hydrogen with oxygen gives water as the sole product. The properties of most acids, especially in water solutions, arise from the hydrogen ion (H+, also referred to as the hydronium ion, HO+, the form in which H+ is found in a water environment). See also hydride; hydrocarbon.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on hydrogen, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up hydrogen? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.

Get Our Free Apps
Voice Search, Favorites,
Word of the Day, and More
Join Us on FB & Twitter
Get the Word of the Day and More