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Topic 2 Hydrogen

Physical properties of hydrogen


Colorless odorless gas

Neutral to litmus
Less dense than air (so collected by upward delivery)
Insoluble in water (can be collected over water)
Highly flammable

Collection of hydrogen
1. Upward delivery ( hydrogen, 0.089 g/L, is less dense than air, 1.28 g/L)
2. Over water (hydrogen is insoluble in water)
3. In a gas syringe.
A sample of hydrogen can be dried using a suitable drying agent:
1. Anhydrous calcium chloride (CaCl2)
2. Concentrated sulphuric acid (H2SO4)

Test for hydrogen gas

Hydrogen gas burns with a squeaky pop sound using a lighted splint.
Hydrogen gas burns explosively with oxygen in the air to form water.

Laboratory preparation of hydrogen

1. Reaction between metal and dilute acid

Hydrogen is usually made by the reaction of zinc or magnesium with dilute sulphuric acid.
Magnesium + sulphuric acid Magnesium sulphate + hydrogen
Mg (s) + H2SO4 (aq) MgSO4 (aq) + H2 (g)
Zinc + sulphuric acid Zinc sulphate + hydrogen
Zn (s) + H2SO4 (aq) ZnSO4 (aq) + H2 (g)
1. Potassium, sodium, lithium and calcium all react violently with dilute sulfuric acid and dilute
hydrochloric acid. It is dangerous to put these metals into an acid.

2. Metals below hydrogen in the reactivity series (copper, silver, gold and platinum) will not react
with dilute acid.

Industrial preparation of hydrogen

1. Reaction of methane and steam
Hydrogen is obtained from methane (natural gas).
The hydrocarbon (an organic compound that contains carbon and hydrogen only) is reacted with
Methane + steam carbon dioxide + hydrogen.
CH4(g) + 2H2O(g) CO2(g) + 4H2(g)
2. Electrolysis of brine (concentrated sodium chloride solution)
Hydrogen is obtained as a product during the electrolysis of brine (concentrated sodium chloride)
where hydrogen gas is collected at the cathode and chlorine gas at the anode.

Reaction at anode

2 Cl-(aq) Cl2 (g) + 2 e-

Reaction at cathode 2 H+(aq) + 2 e- H2 (g)

3. Electrolysis of acidified water

If a sample of water (with few drops of an acid) is electrolyzed, hydrogen gas is produced at the
cathode and oxygen gas at anode.
4. Thermal/ catalytic cracking of long chain alkanes
Cracking is the breakdown of long chain alkanes into shorter alkanes and alkenes which are more
Alkanes and alkenes are organic compounds containing carbon and hydrogen only.
Al2O3 &SiO2 / 500 C /1012 atm

C2H4 + C3H6 + C3H8

ethene + propene + propane

Uses of hydrogen

In synthesis of ammonia (NH3).

In synthesis of hydrochloric acid (HCl).
In the hardening of unsaturated oils to make margarine.
In filling balloons.
As a rocket fuel.

Isotopes of hydrogen
Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have the same atomic number (same number of electrons
and protons) but different mass number (number of neutrons)
Isotopes of hydrogen and their relative subatomic particles are listed below


1 proton

1 electron

zero neutron


1 proton

1 electron

1 neutron


1 proton

1 electron

2 neutrons

Hydrogen as a Fuel
Hydrogen can be used directly as a fuel for cars or used in a fuel cell to produce electricity.
Hydrogen reacts with oxygen to produce water plus energy.
hydrogen + oxygen water + energy
+ O2(g) 2H2O(l)
The energy released by the reaction can be used to run a car engine which is similar to (but not the
same as) car engines which burn petrol.
Advantages of using Hydrogen as a Fuel
1. Hydrogen can be made from the electrolysis of water. If the electricity used during electrolysis
comes from a renewable resource (solar power for example) then the hydrogen fuel produced
is also renewable.
2. Hydrogen used as a fuel does not produce pollution or contribute to global warming because
the only product of combustion is water.
Disadvantages of using Hydrogen as a Fuel
1. Hydrogen does not contain a lot of energy compared to petrol per gram. A larger amount of
hydrogen is needed to run a similar car.
2. Hydrogen is explosive and being a gas is difficult to store.
3. If the hydrogen does not come from a renewable resource but is made from methane, then the
hydrogen fuel produced is also not renewable.