Helium is known as He on the periodic table. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe and was discovered on the sun before it was found on the earth. It has been detected in great abundance in hotter stars and it is an important component in both the proton-proton reaction and the carbon cycle, which accounts for the energy of the sun and stars.
Helium is commercially recovered from natural gas deposits.
Helium is used as an inert shield for arc welding to pressurize the fuel tanks of liquid fueled rockets and in supersonic wind tunnels. Helium is combined with oxygen to create a nitrogen free atmosphere for deep sea divers so that they will not suffer from a condition known as nitrogen narcosis. Liquid helium is an important cryogenic material and is used to study superconductivity and to create superconductive magnets.
Liquid helium’s use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) continues to increase as the medical profession accepts and develops new uses for the equipment.
The most readily recognized use for helium gas is to inflate blimps, scientific balloons and party balloons. Did you know it would take 6000 helium balloons to lift a 37/38kg child into the air?
In everyday life Helium is use for:
|As helium is lighter than air it can be used to inflate airships, blimps and balloons, providing lift. Although hydrogen is cheaper and more buoyant, helium is preferred as it is non-flammable and therefore safer.|
|Helium’s low boiling point makes it useful for cooling metals needed for superconductivity, from cooling the superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners to maintaining the low temperature of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.|
|Divers and others working under pressure use mixtures of helium, oxygen and nitrogen to breathe underwater, avoiding the problems caused by breathing ordinary air under high pressure, which include disorientation.|
|As well as being used to clean out rocket engines, helium is used to pressurise the interior of liquid fuel rockets, condense hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, and force fuel into the engines during rocket launches.|
|Helium can be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals containing uranium and thorium by measuring their retention of helium.|
|The gas is used in solar telescopes to prevent the heating of the air, which reduces the distorting effects of temperature variations in the space between lenses.
Inhaling helium temporarily changes the sound of a person’s voice. Though helium is non-toxic, breathing it can result in asphyxiation due to oxygen deprivation.