How to Classify Hydrogen

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Hydrogen is an element that resists easy classification. Like the metals in group 1 of the periodic table, it can form compounds with an oxygen number of +1; like the halogen nonmetals in group 17, it can form compounds with an oxidation number of -1 as well. Based on its electronegativity, it should be a semimetal, and yet its chemistry is largely unlike those of the other semimetals. Given its unusual characteristics, hydrogen is difficult to assign to any specific group--which is why it's usually categorized in a specific fashion.

Things You'll Need

  • Periodic table
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Look up the electronegativity of hydrogen. Based on its electronegativity, hydrogen could be classified as a nonmetal.

  • Write out the electron configuration for hydrogen. Hydrogen has one electron shell with a single s-type orbital and only one electron in this shell. Electrons in the outermost shell of an atom are called valence electrons. Based on the number of valence electrons, hydrogen could be classified under group 1 of the periodic table.

  • Write the symbol for hydrogen above group 1. Hydrogen cannot be classified into any of the other groups because it doesn't fit perfectly into any of them. Even though it can't be assigned to a group, most periodic tables place it above group 1, because it has the same number of valence electrons as a group 1 element.

References

  • Photo Credit Don Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
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