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A period 1 element is one of the chemical elements in the first row (or period) of the periodic table of the chemical elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate periodic (recurring) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that analog elements fall into the same vertical columns. The first period contains fewer elements than any other row in the table, with only two: hydrogen and helium. This situation can be explained by modern theories of atomic structure. In a quantum mechanical description of atomic structure, this period corresponds to the filling of the 1s orbital. Period 1 elements obey the duet rule in that they need two electrons to complete their valence shell.
Hydrogen and helium are the oldest and the most abundant elements in the universe.
All other periods in the periodic table contain at least eight elements, and it is often helpful to consider periodic trends across the period. However, period 1 contains only two elements, so this concept does not apply here.
In terms of vertical trends down groups, helium can be seen as a typical noble gas at the head of the IUPAC group 18, but as discussed below, hydrogen's chemistry is unique and it is not easily assigned to any group.
The first electron shell, n = 1, consists of only one orbital, and the maximum number of valence electrons that a period 1 element can accommodate is two, both in the 1s orbital. The valence shell lacks "p" or any other kind of orbitals due to the general l < n constraint on the quantum numbers. Therefore, period 1 has exactly two elements. Although both hydrogen and helium are in the s-block, neither of them behaves similarly to other s-block elements. Their behaviour is so different from the other s-block elements that there is considerable disagreement over where these two elements should be placed in the periodic table.
Simply following electron configurations, hydrogen (electronic configuration 1s1) and helium (1s2) should be placed in groups 1 and 2, above lithium (1s22s1) and beryllium (1s22s2). While such a placement is common for hydrogen, it is rarely used for helium outside of the context of illustrating the electron configurations. When the noble gases (then called "inert gases") were first discovered around 1900, they were known as "group 0", reflecting no chemical reactivity of these elements known at that point, and helium was placed on the top of that group, as it did share the extreme chemical inertness seen throughout the group. As the group changed its formal number, many authors continued to assign helium directly above neon, in group 18; one of the examples of such placing is the current IUPAC table.
The position of hydrogen in group 1 is reasonably well settled. Its usual oxidation state is +1 as is the case for its heavier alkali metal congeners. Like lithium, it has a significant covalent chemistry. It can stand in for alkali metals in typical alkali metal structures. It is capable of forming alloy-like hydrides, featuring metallic bonding, with some transition metals.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes placed elsewhere. A common alternative is at the top of group 17 given hydrogen's strictly univalent and largely non-metallic chemistry, and the strictly univalent and non-metallic chemistry of fluorine (the element otherwise at the top of group 17). Sometimes, to show hydrogen has properties corresponding to both those of the alkali metals and the halogens, it is shown at the top of the two columns simultaneously. Another suggestion is above carbon in group 14: placed that way, it fits well into the trends of increasing ionization potential values and electron affinity values, and is not too far from the electronegativity trend, even though hydrogen cannot show the tetravalence characteristic of the heavier group 14 elements. Finally, hydrogen is sometimes placed separately from any group; this is based on its general properties being regarded as sufficiently different from those of the elements in any other group.
The other period 1 element, helium, is most often placed in group 18 with the other noble gases, as its extraordinary inertness is extremely close to that of the other light noble gases neon and argon. Nevertheless, it is occasionally placed separately from any group as well. The property that distinguishes helium from the rest of the noble gases is that in its closed electron shell, helium has only two electrons in the outermost electron orbital, while the rest of the noble gases have eight. Some authors, such as Henry Bent (the eponym of Bent's rule), Wojciech Grochala, and Felice Grandinetti, have argued that helium would be correctly placed in group 2, over beryllium; Charles Janet's left-step table also contains this assignment. The normalized ionization potentials and electron affinities show better trends with helium in group 2 than in group 18; helium is expected to be slightly more reactive than neon (which breaks the general trend of reactivity in the noble gases, where the heavier ones are more reactive); predicted helium compounds often lack neon analogues even theoretically, but sometimes have beryllium analogues; and helium over beryllium better follows the trend of first-row anomalies in the table (s >> p > d > f). This trend states that the first element of each group often behaves quite differently from the succeeding ones: the difference is largest in the s-block (H and He), is moderate for the p-block (B to Ne), and is less pronounced for the d- and f-blocks.
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Main article: Hydrogen
Hydrogen (H) is the chemical element with atomic number 1. At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, nonmetallic, tasteless, highly flammable diatomic gas with the molecular formula H2. With an atomic mass of 1.00794 amu, hydrogen is the lightest element.
Hydrogen is the most abundant of the chemical elements, constituting roughly 75% of the universe's elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly composed of hydrogen in its plasma state. Elemental hydrogen is relatively rare on Earth, and is industrially produced from hydrocarbons such as methane, after which most elemental hydrogen is used "captively" (meaning locally at the production site), with the largest markets almost equally divided between fossil fuel upgrading, such as hydrocracking, and ammonia production, mostly for the fertilizer market. Hydrogen may be produced from water using the process of electrolysis, but this process is significantly more expensive commercially than hydrogen production from natural gas.
The most common naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen, known as protium, has a single proton and no neutrons. In ionic compounds, it can take on either a positive charge, becoming a cation composed of a bare proton, or a negative charge, becoming an anion known as a hydride. Hydrogen can form compounds with most elements and is present in water and most organic compounds. It plays a particularly important role in acid-base chemistry, in which many reactions involve the exchange of protons between soluble molecules. As the only neutral atom for which the Schrödinger equation can be solved analytically, study of the energetics and spectrum of the hydrogen atom has played a key role in the development of quantum mechanics.
The interactions of hydrogen with various metals are very important in metallurgy, as many metals can suffer hydrogen embrittlement, and in developing safe ways to store it for use as a fuel. Hydrogen is highly soluble in many compounds composed of rare earth metals and transition metals and can be dissolved in both crystalline and amorphous metals. Hydrogen solubility in metals is influenced by local distortions or impurities in the metal crystal lattice.
Main article: Helium
Helium (He) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert monatomic chemical element that heads the noble gas series in the periodic table and whose atomic number is 2. Its boiling and melting points are the lowest among the elements and it exists only as a gas except in extreme conditions.
Helium was discovered in 1868 by French astronomer Pierre Janssen, who first detected the substance as an unknown yellow spectral line signature in light from a solar eclipse. In 1903, large reserves of helium were found in the natural gas fields of the United States, which is by far the largest supplier of the gas. The substance is used in cryogenics, in deep-sea breathing systems, to cool superconducting magnets, in helium dating, for inflating balloons, for providing lift in airships, and as a protective gas for industrial uses such as arc welding and growing silicon wafers. Inhaling a small volume of the gas temporarily changes the timbre and quality of the human voice. The behavior of liquid helium-4's two fluid phases, helium I and helium II, is important to researchers studying quantum mechanics and the phenomenon of superfluidity in particular, and to those looking at the effects that temperatures near absolute zero have on matter, such as with superconductivity.
Helium is the second lightest element and is the second most abundant in the observable universe. Most helium was formed during the Big Bang, but new helium is being created as a result of the nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars. On Earth, helium is relatively rare and is created by the natural decay of some radioactive elements because the alpha particles that are emitted consist of helium nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations of up to seven percent by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation.