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The simplest free radical is the hydrogen atom (H•). The single and unpaired electron is denoted as • . A hydrogen molecule consists of 2 hydrogen atoms that are connected by sharing a pair of electrons between them, forming a chemical bond:
H2, H:H or H-H
A hydrogen molecule has an electron pair, and therefore, it is not a free radical. When hydrogen gas is irritated with UV light in an isolated environment (without oxygen), a hydrogen molecule (H-H) may be broken evenly (homolytic cleavage) to give two hydrogen atoms or two free radicals:
H2 → 2H•
The two free radical hydrogen atoms could combine to go back to the hydrogen molecule:
However, the chance for the two exactly same atoms to meet and to form a di-atomic molecule again is almost zero, simply because each of the 2 free radicals is too reactive to give their partner a chance. Each hydrogen atom free radical grabs almost anything it collides with.
The Simplest Radical - Hydrogen Atom