What Are the Principal Uses of Hydrogen Gas in Laboratories?

Ever been curious about what hydrogen gas is used for? It’s a common agent used to make all kinds of products and is popular among chemical engineers to work with across many industries.

The question is, what exactly are they using it for? Whether you’re a lab technician, chemical engineer, or tree-hugger, here are 4 fascinating uses of hydrogen gas in a laboratory setting.

1. Oil Refining

One of the most common uses of hydrogen gas is in oil refineries. Chemical engineers use a process called hydrocracking to remove sulfur from natural gases.

Hydrocracking commonly refines all of the following products:

and more. The benefits of hydrogen gas in refining oils also touch the shipping industry. Hydrogen gas allows oil refineries to reduce the number of high-sulfur residual oil used in large cargo ships.

In layman’s terms: hydrogen gas saves the planet.

2. Natural Gas Substitute

For all the greenies out there, hydrogen gas is an exciting option. It’s viewed as a potential replacement for the climate-“unfriendly” natural gases.

Many scientists are exploring hydrogen gas and its ability to generate electricity and heating. This could mean huge reductions in carbon-based fuels.

Because hydrogen gas (obviously), uses water, it has a high calorific value. Of course, there are some challenges of burning hydrogen gas.

It produces high “flame speed.” In other words, the flames it produces can sometimes be unpredictable. Because of this danger, scientists are constantly working to find ways to use hydrogen gas safely so they can maximize its potential.

3. Creating Ammonia

You’ve seen this ingredient on the label of just about every effective cleaning product in your cupboard. Ammonia is produced using hydrogen and nitrogen together.

Ammonia production is one of the biggest uses of hydrogen gas in the world today. It’s second only to oil refining.

The most well-known process for creating ammonia is the Harber-Bosch process.

For those of us who are not engineers (or even close), this process involves combining hydrogen and nitrogen are under intense temperature and pressure, in the presence of a metal catalyst.

Check out these sources for more information on how high-pressure generators are important to chemical synthesis. While hydrogen gas helps make ammonia for glass cleaners and toilet scrubs, ammonia is also used in fertilizers.

4. Food Production

One of the other common uses of hydrogen gas is seen widely in the food industry. Hydrogen gas makes saturated fats and oils out of unsaturated fats.

That margarine in your fridge? It’s made from saturated fats in a lab, using hydrogen gases!

Large batches of saturated fats are dumped into heated tanks. They are then pressured, vacuumed, and stirred. The hydrogen is filtered out, along with something called “slurry,” and the hydrogenated oil solidify into many common foods used today.

Other Uses of Hydrogen Gas

The uses of hydrogen gas are wide and varied. It’s also found in the production of everything from weather balloons to hydrochloric acid, to coolants.

If you’ve enjoyed learning about this fascinating industrial product, read on! Browse the business portion of our blog for more interesting product-related articles. Happy reading!

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