The Element Hydrogen

The Element Hydrogen and what can be made with it

The element Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. The most common form consists of only one proton and one electron. It has an electron configuration of 1s1 in its ground state.


When combined with Oxygen these isotopes of Hydrogen form water that has all the same chemical properties of regular water, but it weighs more since it has a higher density. This is called heavy water and has uses in the nuclear power industry, especially the Deuterium version (D2O).

Chemical Bonding of Hydrogen

The 1s subshell is the only subshell in the first shell of all atoms. The first shell can only accommodate a maximum of two electrons, and so in order to gain a full outer shell (1s2), hydrogen commonly forms single covalent (sharing) bonds with other elements.

Consider the electron dot diagram for the element hydrogen, where the large sphere represents whole of the atom except the outer shell electron.

We can put two Hydrogen atoms together and when they share their electrons, each now has a full outer shell of two electrons.

We can apply the same process to Hydrogen bonding with other elements. Carbon has four outer shell electrons and requires eight for maximum stability. We can match up four hydrogen atoms with carbon since each Hydrogen can provide Carbon with one of the missing electrons.
Once we move the Hydrogens around in order to line up pairs of electrons we can see that Carbon will bond with four Hydrogen atoms, as shown below. In this example both the Carbon atom and all four Hydrogen atoms now have full outer shells. This is methane (CH4), a gas commonly associated with oil deposits.

the completed electron dot diagram of methane

Hydrogen as a Metal

All other elements that have one electron in their outer shells are classified as metals since they readily lose that electron and therefore have an excess of electrons in pure for which allows the element to conduct electricity and gives it the shiny appearance we associate with metals.

The element Hydrogen is not considered a metal though as once it has lost its electron it is just a proton and is not considered an atom any more. It is highly likely that the core of the planet Jupiter is composed of liquid metallic hydrogen, a situation that could only arise from the incredible pressure generated by the mass of that planet.

I first read about this idea in the Arthur C Clarke book 2010: Odyssey Two. He’s got some other pretty wild theories about Jupiter in that story, and it’s well worth a read if you can find a copy.