What is the most abundant chemical element in the Universe?

In the Universe cookbook, hydrogen is by far the most used ingredient. Scientists calculate that this chemical element may represent about 93% of the atoms in the cosmos and 75% of the mass of all matter already estimated. It is found in abundance in stars and is a major component of Jupiter and other gas giant planets.

And why is it so plentiful? Simply because it is the simplest and lightest chemical element we know of. The so-called light hydrogen (or protium) is made up of just one proton in the nucleus and one electron.

In space, it is usually found in atomic and plasma states, whose properties are quite different from those of molecular hydrogen (H2), as we know it on Earth.

“In the form of plasma, the electron and the hydrogen proton are not linked, which results in high electrical conductivity and high emissivity. It is what produces sunlight, for example”, explains Professor Júlio Afonso, from the Institute of Chemistry at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro).

When did it come?

Hydrogen, as well as some helium and possibly lithium, beryllium and boron, were created in the early stages of the Universe. In 1766, English chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish was the first scientist to isolate and study the physical properties of hydrogen. Observing that it exploded when heated in contact with air, he called it a “flammable gas”.

Other gases

The other percentages of atoms that predominantly make up the Universe are helium (higher amount) and oxygen (lower amount). About 20% of all the helium in the Universe is in the stars.

After hydrogen, helium and oxygen, the representation of chemical elements starts to get smaller and smaller. To give you an idea, only carbon, neon, iron, nitrogen, silicon, magnesium, sulfur and argon have atomic abundances greater than 0.01%. Now among the rarest chemical elements are rhenium, lutetium, thulium and tantalum.

But before we talk about the Earth, it is worth remembering a detail: today, the Universe that we can “see”, that is, that scientists are aware of, corresponds to only 5% of what would be the total Universe. Therefore, hydrogen can be considered “the king” only of this piece that we know.

The most on Earth

On our planet, let’s say the ranking is different. Hydrogen, for example, occupies only 9th place. Here, oxygen reigns supreme, which accounts for almost half (47%) of the atoms that make up the Earth. It is present on the surface of the planet, in water, in the air and in rocks.

Then we have silicon (28%), aluminum (8.1%), iron (5.0%), calcium (3.6%), sodium (2.8%), potassium (2.6%) and magnesium (2.1%).

Now, if we take into account the planet as a whole, not just the earth’s crust, iron (32.1%) will be the most abundant chemical element present in the Earth’s core. Then we will have oxygen (30.1%), silicon (15.1%), magnesium (13.9%), sulfur (2.9%), nickel (1.8%), calcium (1.5%) and aluminum (1.4%).

Specialist consulted: Júlio Afonso, professor at the Institute of Chemistry at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro).

*With article by Cintia Baio

About Raju Singh

Raju has an exquisite taste. For him, video games are more than entertainment and he likes to discuss forms and art.

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