Hydrogen atom

Molecules, Water

How solid is the 2-electron H-H bond?

By Juman Hijab

Reading time: minutes

Original date: May 27, 2020  

Updated: March 11, 2023

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Hydrogen atom

BlueRingMedia. The Hydrogen element. Shutterstock.com, ID: 152409845.

Understanding the H : H bond

Through understanding how hydrogen atoms join together to form H2 (hydrogen gas), we can better appreciate a number of things:  

In this article, this article is a brief overview of hydrogen gas and is a prelude to the course:  Creating a solid Hydrogen bond for H2

Inert yet explosive

About five hundred years ago, it was found that hydrogen gas could be produced by adding acids to metal.

At first, H2 was thought to be  a type of "inflammable air". It was only later that it was defined as a discrete substance; A gas that produced water when burned in air. Hence the name Hydrogen, or the "creator of water".

The ability to produce large quantities hydrogen gas cheaply allowed flight with gas-filled dirigibles, like the Zeppelins.  Unfortunately, even though careful safety measures were taken to prevent the ignition of the hydrogen gas during flights, disaster struck in 1937 with the Hindenburg disaster. 

Hydrogen gas as fuel

Hydrogen gas is made up of two hydrogen atoms. Each hydrogen atom would much prefer joining with other atoms. For example, a hydrogen gas (H2) will join with oxygen (O2) and in so doing will release energy as well as a new end-product: H2O.  

Thus, in spite of the potentially explosive nature of hydrogen gas, its use has expanded to become a standard fuel. Hydrogen produces energy when it is combined with oxygen. This reaction generates electricity and energy in fuel cells and internal combustion engines. 

Understanding electrons in the s-orbital

Atoms with an unmatched electron in their s orbital  are very active and fast moving. How do they create a 2-electron bond? In fact,  how do two hydrogen atoms come together to create a seemingly "solid" 2 electron bond?

The thing is: the overall energy of the H2 molecule is much less than that of two separate hydrogen atoms. And this is the case even though the electrons continue to travel incredibly fast.

I go into more depth in this course which looks at hydrogen atoms when they join to form H2, or hydrogen gas.


covalent bond, electrons, hydrogen, hydrogen bond

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