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Hydrogen Metal or Non-metal

Hydrogen, with its atomic number 1 and symbol H, resides at the top left corner of the periodic table. While it belongs to Group 1, which typically consists of metals like lithium and sodium, hydrogen is not classified as either a metal or non-metal. Instead, it occupies a league of its own – an exceptional element with characteristics that can exhibit both metallic and non-metallic behavior depending on specific conditions.

Is Hydrogen a Metal?

Hydrogen is an intriguing element that has puzzled scientists for many years. Hydrogen is not considered a metal. Instead, it is classified as a nonmetal. However, the metallic properties of hydrogen are still a topic of scientific debate.

One of the reasons why hydrogen is not classified as a metal is because it does not exhibit typical metallic characteristics under normal conditions.

In its most common form, hydrogen lacks properties like conductivity, luster, and malleability associated with metals. However, subjected to extreme pressures, hydrogen can transform into metallic hydrogen  ,exhibiting metal-like properties comparable to iron and nickel.

Chemistry of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, a fundamental element in the periodic table, has a unique atomic structure. It consists of one proton and one electron, making it the simplest atom. Due to its electronic configuration, hydrogen belongs to Group 1, also known as the alkali metals.

In chemical reactions, hydrogen can form covalent bonds with other elements. This means that it shares electrons with another atom to create a stable molecule. For example, when hydrogen combines with oxygen (O), it forms water (H2O). This process is crucial for sustaining life on Earth as water is essential for various biological processes.

Hydrogen can also form molecular hydrogen (H2), where two hydrogen atoms bond together. Molecular hydrogen is a colorless and odorless gas that plays a significant role in many chemical reactions and industrial processes. It is used in the production of ammonia (NH3) and methanol (CH3OH) – important compounds in agriculture and fuel production.

Properties of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, a versatile element, exhibits unique properties that set it apart from other elements in the periodic table. Let’s delve into some fascinating aspects of hydrogen and explore its physical and chemical characteristics.

Colorless, Odorless, and Tasteless

In its pure form, hydrogen is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Imagine holding a glass filled with hydrogen gas – you wouldn’t be able to see it or detect any distinctive smell or taste. It’s like having an invisible guest at your dinner table!

Lowest Boiling and Melting Points

Among all the elements on the periodic table, hydrogen boasts the lowest boiling point (-252.87°C) and melting point (-259.16°C). To put it into perspective, these temperatures are colder than even the frostiest winter days! This characteristic makes hydrogen unique and valuable for various applications.

Highly Flammable Nature

One of the most intriguing properties of hydrogen is its high flammability. When ignited, hydrogen burns with an almost invisible flame. It’s like watching magic unfold before your eyes! However, this flammability requires caution when handling hydrogen gas to avoid potential hazards.

Now that we’ve explored some key properties of hydrogen let’s take a closer look at its physical and chemical attributes.

Physical Properties

Hydrogen belongs to a group of elements called nonmetals. Nonmetals typically lack metallic properties such as luster and conductivity. Although classified as a nonmetal, hydrogen exhibits some characteristics similar to metals due to its ability to lose electrons easily.

Moreover, unlike most gases that exist as diatomic molecules (two atoms bonded together), hydrogen exists primarily as individual atoms (H). This property gives it distinct behavior compared to other gases.

Chemical Properties

Hydrogen possesses several interesting chemical properties that make it highly reactive in certain conditions:

  1. Reactivity with Oxygen: When combined with oxygen, hydrogen forms water (H2O), a vital compound for life on Earth. This reaction releases energy and is commonly used in fuel cells to generate electricity.

  2. Isotopes: Hydrogen has three isotopes – protium, deuterium, and tritium. These isotopes have different numbers of neutrons but the same number of protons and electrons. Each isotope exhibits unique properties and finds applications in various scientific fields.

  3. Reactivity with Metals: Hydrogen can react with certain metals to form compounds called hydrides. These hydrides have diverse uses, ranging from storing hydrogen for fuel cells to facilitating chemical reactions.

Hydrogen’s abundance in the universe and its versatility make it an essential element for numerous applications, including energy production, industrial processes, and scientific research.

Reactions of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, a versatile element, participates in various reactions that showcase its unique properties. Let’s delve into some of the key reactions that hydrogen undergoes.


When ignited, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to produce water vapor and heat energy. This reaction is known as combustion. It can be represented by the equation:

2H₂ + O₂ → 2H₂O + heat energy

During combustion, hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water molecules while releasing a significant amount of heat. This reaction is highly exothermic and is often used as a source of energy in fuel cells and rockets.


In various industrial processes, hydrogen gas frequently serves as a reducing agent.

As a reducing agent, it has the ability to donate electrons and decrease the oxidation state of other elements or compounds involved in the reaction.

In metallurgical processes such as iron ore reduction, hydrogen gas reacts with metal oxides to reduce them to their elemental forms. For example:

Fe₂O₃ + 3H₂ → 2Fe + 3H₂O

This reduction reaction converts iron(III) oxide (Fe₂O₃) into pure iron (Fe) while producing water vapor (H₂O) as a byproduct.

Acid-Base Reactions

In aqueous solutions, hydrogen ions (H+) play a crucial role in acid-base chemistry. When hydrogen ions are released into solution, they can act as acids by donating protons to other species or react with bases to form water molecules.

For example, when hydrogen chloride gas (HCl) dissolves in water, it dissociates into H+ ions and chloride ions (Cl-):

HCl → H+ + Cl-

The release of H+ ions makes the solution acidic. These H+ ions can then interact with other substances present in the solution through acid-base reactions.

Hydrogen ions can also participate in ionization reactions of weak acids. For instance, acetic acid (CH₃COOH) partially dissociates in water to form acetate ions (CH₃COO-) and hydrogen ions (H+):


These acid-base reactions involving hydrogen ions are vital for maintaining the pH balance in various biological and chemical systems.

Uses & Application of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a versatile element that finds applications in various industries. Let’s explore some of the key uses and applications of hydrogen.

Energy Production

One of the significant uses of hydrogen is in energy production. Hydrogen fuel cells are employed to generate electricity without harmful emissions. These fuel cells work by converting hydrogen and oxygen into water, producing electricity as a byproduct. This clean and sustainable energy source has the potential to replace fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

Ammonia Production

Large quantities of hydrogen are utilized for ammonia synthesis in fertilizer production. Ammonia, which contains nitrogen and hydrogen atoms, is a crucial component in the manufacturing of fertilizers. By combining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen obtained through processes like steam reforming or electrolysis, ammonia can be produced on a large scale to meet agricultural demands worldwide.

Oil Refining

Hydrogenation processes play a vital role in oil refining. Heavy crude oil contains impurities and high molecular weight compounds that hinder its usability as a fuel source. Through hydrogenation, these heavy hydrocarbons are converted into lighter petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This process helps improve the quality and efficiency of refined petroleum products.

Other Applications

Apart from energy production, ammonia synthesis, and oil refining, hydrogen finds application in various other sectors:

  • Rocket Fuel: Due to its high energy content per unit mass, hydrogen is used as rocket fuel for space exploration missions.

  • In steelmaking processes: hydrogen crucially contributes to annealing and heat treating metals.
  • In electronics manufacturing: hydrogen plays a key role in plasma etching for semiconductor fabrication. Hydrogen-cooled generators efficiently cool electrical generators in nuclear power plants.
  • In the food industry: hydrogenation transforms liquid vegetable oils into solid fats, enhancing texture and extending the shelf life of products.

Hydrogen’s versatility and eco-friendly nature make it a promising candidate for future energy solutions.

However, there are challenges to overcome, such as hydrogen production methods and infrastructure development. Nonetheless, ongoing research and advancements in technology aim to address these hurdles.

Natural Occurrence & Other Sources of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, the lightest and most abundant element in the universe, can be found in various natural sources. Let’s explore how hydrogen occurs naturally and other methods used to obtain it.

Hydrogen in Water Molecules and Organic Compounds

One of the primary natural occurrences of hydrogen is as a component of water molecules (H2O). Water covers about 71% of the Earth’s surface, making it a significant source of hydrogen. Each water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. This makes water an essential resource for obtaining hydrogen.

Furthermore, hydrogen is also present in organic compounds. These are compounds that contain carbon atoms bonded with other elements like hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur. Examples include carbohydrates (sugars), lipids (fats), proteins, and nucleic acids (DNA). When these organic compounds undergo certain processes, they release hydrogen gas.

Obtaining Hydrogen from Fossil Fuels

Another method to acquire hydrogen is through processes involving fossil fuels. One such process is steam methane reforming (SMR). In SMR, natural gas (which primarily contains methane) reacts with steam at high temperatures to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases. The carbon monoxide can then be further reacted to produce additional hydrogen.

While this method allows us to extract usable amounts of hydrogen from fossil fuels, it does come with environmental concerns due to the release of greenhouse gases during the process. As we strive for sustainability, alternative methods are being explored.


Is hydrogen a metal or non-metal?

Hydrogen is not classified as either a metal or a non-metal. It is actually an element that falls under its own category on the periodic table called “nonmetal”.

Can hydrogen be considered a metalloid?

No, hydrogen is not considered a metalloid either. Metalloids are elements that exhibit properties of both metals and non-metals, but hydrogen does not possess these characteristics.

What are the physical properties of hydrogen metal?

Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas at room temperature. It has the lowest density of all gases and is highly flammable. It can exist as diatomic molecules (H2) or individual atoms (H).

How does hydrogen metal behave chemically?

Chemically, hydrogen behaves as an alkali metal when it loses an electron to form H+ ions, similar to how metals lose electrons to form positive ions. However, it can also gain electrons like non-metals to form negative ions (H-). This dual behavior makes it unique.

Can I find hydrogen in metallic form in nature?

Under extreme pressure conditions in laboratory settings, scientists have induced metallic properties in hydrogen, as pure metallic forms have never been observed in nature.

Shazzy Sheraz

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