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Large quantities of H2 are needed in the petroleum and chemical industries. The largest applications of H2 is for the processing ("upgrading") of fossil fuels, and in the production of ammonia. The key consumers of H2 in the petrochemical plant include hydrodealkylation, hydrodesulfurization, and hydrocracking. H2 has several other important uses. H2 is used as a hydrogenating agent, particularly in increasing the level of saturation of unsaturated fats and oils (found in items such as margarine), and in the production of methanol. It is similarly the source of hydrogen in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid. H2 is also used as a reducing agent of metallic ores.
Apart from its use as a reactant, H2 has wide applications in physics and engineering. It is used as a shielding gas in welding methods such as atomic hydrogen welding. H2 is used as the rotor coolant in electrical generators at power stations, because it has the highest thermal conductivity of any gas. Liquid H2 is used in cryogenic research, including superconductivity studies. Since H2 is lighter than air, having a little more than 1/15th of the density of air, it was once widely used as a lifting agent in balloons and airships. However, this use was curtailed after the Hindenburg disaster convinced the public that the gas was too dangerous for this purpose.
Hydrogen's rarer isotopes also each have specific applications. Deuterium (hydrogen-2) is used in nuclear fission applications as a moderator to slow neutrons, and in nuclear fusion reactions. Deuterium compounds have applications in chemistry and biology in studies of reaction isotope effects. Tritium (hydrogen-3), produced in nuclear reactors, is used in the production of hydrogen bombs, as an isotopic label in the biosciences, and as a radiation source in luminous paints.
The triple point temperature of equilibrium hydrogen is a defining fixed point on the ITS-90 temperature scale.