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Hydrogen: The First Element
Hydrogen is a chemical element denoted with the symbol H and has an atomic mass of 1.008 amu, making it the simplest and lightest element on the periodic table. It also appears to be one of the first elements to ever come into existence. Hydrogen has an atomic number of one, meaning a neutral hydrogen atom consists of one proton and one electron. Although hydrogen is located in group one of period one on the periodic table, it is not considered to be an Alkaline Metal; rather, it is considered to be a nonmetal. Additionally, hydrogen consists of only one s orbital, making it a special exception to the octet rule. Hydrogen is an unscented, colorless, and non-toxic gas. Hydrogen also makes up 75% of the universe’s matter, making it the most abundant gas in the universe (Volkov, Tikhonov 2002).
In 1954, physicist Fred Hoyle developed a groundbreaking discovery that came to be known as the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. This theory states that the Big Bang resulted in three elements to spontaneously coexist: hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Eventually, these elements became the first stars and continued to increase in size. These elements then paved the way for new heavier elements to come into existence by merging existing protons and neutrons to form new atomic nuclei (Pontius 2018). Since hydrogen is lighter than air, it tends to rise in the atmosphere. As a result, Hydrogen gas (
) can never be found on Earth unless it is bonded to another element. One example would be hydrogen gas bonding with oxygen to form water (
. Since hydrogen occurs at higher levels in the atmosphere, it tends to inhabit most of the universe’s celestial bodies, primarily stars. As in the case of the sun, stars give off massive forms of radiant energy which fall upon the visible light section of the electromagnetic spectrum. This energy is then stored in fossil fuels as forms of chemical energy, which is what we use today (“Hydrogen explained,” 2019).
Electricity is an excellent energy carrier and is very easy to generate. Today, we can see the wide uses of electricity that allow us to transfer energy into utilizable forms. Like electricity, hydrogen is also an excellent energy carrier and source of fuel. Although the application of hydrogen is not as apparent as that of electricity, it has the potential to be an efficient energy carrier in the future. Unlike gasoline, hydrogen as an energy source gives off no emissions, is non-toxic, and is safe to store and move (Markowitz 2019). On the other hand, hydrogen gas is extremely flammable and is very difficult to produce. There are two main methods currently used to produce hydrogen gas: steam reforming and electrolysis. Steam reforming is the moderately less expensive alternative used by manufacturers. Steam reforming works by separating the carbon and hydrogen atoms of methane, which is known to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Electrolysis uses an electric current to divide the hydrogen atoms in water. Electrolysis is an eco-friendlier method since it results in no emissions that could contribute to the greenhouse effect. However, it is currently a much more expensive method (“Hydrogen explained,” 2019). Scientists are currently researching more economically efficient and inexpensive methods to harvest hydrogen. In the future, hydrogen-based energy could pave ways to cleaner and recyclable energy.
In the future, hydrogen-gas based therapy could play a major role in the field of medicine. Although further research is needed, hydrogen-gas based therapy could potentially defeat an enemy the medical field has been battling for centuries: cancer. Hydrogen gas-based therapy is a safe method practiced by inhaling hydrogen gas at a low concentration. Hydrogen can act as an antioxidant, meaning it can delay or even prevent damage done to cells caused by unstable molecules that our bodies tend to generate as a response to our environmental surroundings (Ono, et al., 2011). Due to hydrogen’s small atomic size, it can easily and quickly enter cells and organelles much more efficiently than any other antioxidant. Hydrogen can also spark an increase in our body’s own antioxidant system, resulting in an increase in cellular-protective enzymes. Additionally, hydrogen is also a gaseous signaling molecule (GSM). A GSM is a molecule that plays an important job in maintaining cellular signals and cellular metabolism. This paves way for anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects (Li et al., 2019).
Although chemotherapy and radiotherapy have proven to be the most effective methods in treating cancer, these treatments can cause numerous side effects in cancer patients including inflammation. Since hydrogen gas is a natural GSM, it would be able to monitor inflammation. Additionally, it could also prevent tumor growth and even suppress cancer cells by reinforcing a cellular process known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is when a cell realizes a defect occurred during its DNA replication. As a result, the cell is programmed to kill itself in order to get rid of its defects. In cancer cells, the process of apoptosis is usually missing, and the cancerous cell goes on to reproduce uncontrollably. Hydrogen gas has proved to be able to both prevent as well as enforce the process of apoptosis, signifying its possibility in both protecting cells as well as attacking cancer cells (Li et al., 2019). With further research, hydrogen-gas based therapy could potentially save millions of lives and prove to be an enormous milestone in the field of medicine.
- Li, S., Liao, R., Sheng, X., Luo, X., Zhang, X., Wen, X., … Zhou, J. (2019, August 6). Hydrogen Gas in Cancer Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fonc.2019.00696/full
- Markowitz, M. (2019). Hydrogen: An energy powerhouse with unlimited potential. [online] Open Access Government. Available at: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/hydrogen-energy-powerhouse/59506/#comment-167675 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].
- Ono, H., Nishijima, Y., Adachi, N., Tachibana, S., Chitoku, S., Mukaihara, S., … Sakamoto, M. (2011, June 7). Improved brain MRI indices in the acute brain stem infarct sites treated with hydroxyl radical scavengers, Edaravone and hydrogen, as compared to Edaravone alone. A non-controlled study. Retrieved from https://medicalgasresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2045-9912-1-12
- Pontius, W. (2018). Fred Hoyle and Supernova Nucleosynthesis. [online] Large.stanford.edu. Available at: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2018/ph241/pontius2/ [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].
- Production of hydrogen. (2019, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/hydrogen/production-of-hydrogen.php
- Sheng Huang, C., Kawamura, T., Toyoda, Y., & Naka, A. (2010, September 6). Recent advances in hydrogen research as a therapeutic medical gas. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10715762.2010.500328
- Tikhonov, V. and Volkov, A. (2002). Separation of water into its ortho and para isomers. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12089435 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].
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