Is Hydrogen a metal or a non-metal? if it's a metal, then how?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hydrogen is typically the first element in the first column listed on the Periodic Table.  That first column is of the alkali metals (lithium, sodium potassium, rubidium, cesium and francium) which all share similar chemical properties, along with suffix endings.  However, I've seen Periodic Tables where hydrogen is in its own...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Hydrogen is typically the first element in the first column listed on the Periodic Table.  That first column is of the alkali metals (lithium, sodium potassium, rubidium, cesium and francium) which all share similar chemical properties, along with suffix endings.  However, I've seen Periodic Tables where hydrogen is in its own box just above the alkali column, and one where it was actually grouped on the right side of the Table!  Metals all share similar properties: they are hard and flexible solids that conduct electricity.  Clearly hydrogen, as a gas, should be classified as a non-metal as it shares none of these qualities.

But it does!  Under extreme pressure, hydrogen can change its from gas to solid, creating metallic hydrogen.  Rather than each electron orbiting around each proton, and the composite atoms floating around as in a gas, under pressure, all the electrons float around all the protons -- an example of degenerative matter. This requires hydrogen to be a solid, but it would share the properties of the alkali metals!

In March 1996, scientists accidentally created metallic hydrogen, but it has been theorized for years that metallic hydrogen exists in nature under the layers of gas upon the planet Jupiter, and more recently, that it exists on several of the extrasolar planets.  These gaseous layers around the large gas planets can exert the amount of pressure and temperature needed for hydrogen to metallize.

So in most Earthly cases, hydrogen is a non-metal.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team