Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75 % of the Universe’s elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly composed of hydrogen in its plasma state. Naturally occurring elemental hydrogen is relatively rare on Earth.
Hydrogen gas (now known to be H2) was first artificially produced in the early 16th century, via the mixing of metals with strong acids. In 1766–81, Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that hydrogen gas was a discrete substance, and that it produces water when burned, a property which later gave it its name, which in Greek means “water-former.” At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is acolorless, odorless, nonmetallic, tasteless, highly combustible diatomic gas with the molecular formula H2.
Hydrogen is highly flammable and will burn in air at a very wide range of concentrations between 4% and 75% by volume.
Although you can’t collect hydrogen from the environment because it’s almost non-existent in our atmosphere(in natural state, because it’s very abundant in combination with other elements: water, for example 😉 ) there are numerous ways of producing it. No, you don’t need a chemistry laboratory at home to make your own hydrogen gas, you just need to improvise some equipment. Actually you don’t need to improvise at all if you just want to produce hydrogen for demonstration!
What can you use hydrogen for? Well, hehe, there are numerous applications if you are inventive. First of all, you can just have fun by setting it on fire while the reaction produces hydrogen. It will make small pops, or, if you have a nozzle, it will make a small beautiful flame. You can inflate a balloon and let it fly… or light it and it will wonderfully explode. You can make a water gun that throws water when hydrogen explodes in a “combustion chamber” as described here.
I’m going to post some methods of producing hydrogen at home, and probably provide some examples from external links.
You can prepare hydrogen through the reaction of acids with metals. It’s like this:
“H” is hydrogen, “R” is the acid radical(example for sulfuric acid: SO4, so the acid is H2SO4) and “M” is the metal. So what acids and metals you can use at home?
For acids, you can use vinegar!(which is acetic acid btw, H3C-COOH :P). On every bottle it must say the concentration. Most of the commercial vinegar is some around 5%, but the higher, the better. Of course you can use other acids. If you find any! You can actually use sulfuric acid found at hardware stores as “car battery electrolyte” but it is far to dangerous to play with.
For metals, you can probably find iron around the house. But even better, you can use zinc. You can get zinc from galvanized nails, or batteries. It’s probably easier and faster to get it from batteries if you don’t find any galvanized nails, just peel of the metal casing from a zinc-carbon or alkaline battery, wash it, and you’ve got zinc metal.
For example, the reaction of zinc and vinegar goes like this:
If you put the 2 ingredients in a transparent recipient( a glass for example), you will start seeing bubbles coming up from the zinc metal. If many bubbles form at the top, you can place near them a match and they will pop, because hydrogen explodes forming water.
Note that if you can find magnesium(Mg), the reaction will go even faster.
You can make hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. Water electrolysis is also use at an industrial scale to produce both hydrogen and oxygen.
I actually did some water electrolysis myself and I posted on my blog: link. But I only did it for oxygen at that time, and I plan to do it for hydrogen as well.
It’s actually easy to do at home, all you need is to improvise a little apparatus. There are hundreds of explanations on the internet on how to do this, so I won’t bother to describe the method here(first of all, read that link from above on Wikipedia).
Some external links:
- Instructable on collecting hydrogen and oxygen
- A fun application of water electrolysis.
- Another instructable
There are other methods as well, but I’m not going to describe them here because they’re not really possible to do at home, and some of them are dangerous.
One more way to make hydrogen at home is by mixing Caustic Soda(NaOH) with water and then adding sheets of alluminium foil. It’s a rather dangerous experiment, which I made myself.
If you want to make hydrogen by using the last method I showed you, please be cautious. It can be extremely dangerous. For safer production please use the water electrolysis method. It is much more safe.
Hydrogen can be fun if you manage to control it(that is “to store” it, to not let it escape).’
Have fun and be safe !