Helium Facts !

Here are a few facts about helium gas which you may find interesting:

Discovered by Sir William Ramsay in London, and independently by P.T. Cleve and N.A. Langlet in Uppsala, Sweden in 1895 Helium is a colourless, odourless, tasteless inert gas at room temperature and makes up about 0.0005% of the air we breathe

During World War II, the army and navy funded experimental plants that produced non-explosive helium as a replacement for the explosive hydrogen used in observation balloons and airships. Once widely available, the element became crucial in ending the war.

Helium is the second lightest chemical element, with many unique properties. It is so named because it was first detected in light patterns in the sun (Greek helios) before it was detected on earth. All gases will condense into a liquid if cooled enough, but helium has the lowest condensation point of any substance (–269°C or –452°F).

We’re all familiar with helium, the very light gas that makes balloons and airships float in the air. Helium has an important safety advantage—it cannot burn or explode like hydrogen. It is also a vital part of air mixtures for breathing by deep-sea divers—unlike nitrogen, it hardly dissolves in blood or lipids (fatty compounds) even at high pressures

Helium Balloons work by the law of buoyancy. As long as the helium plus the balloon is lighter than the air it displaces, the balloon will float in the air. Helium is a lot lighter than air.

Helium Balloon Gas makes balloons float. Helium is lighter than air and just as the heaviest things will tend to fall to the bottom, the lightest things will rise to the top.

So why are helium and hydrogen so much lighter than air?
It's because the hydrogen and helium atoms are lighter than a nitrogen atom. They have fewer electrons, protons and neutrons than nitrogen atoms do, and that makes them lighter (the approximate atomic weight of hydrogen is 1, helium is 4 and nitrogen is 14). Approximately the same number of atoms of each of these elements fills approximately the same amount of space. Therefore, the gases made of lighter atoms are lighter.

What causes helium balloons to lose their lift after a day or two?
In brief, because the helium leaks out, they shrink, and become heavier than the volume of air they displace. This causes them to lose buoyancy and "sink" in the air. The weight balance that keeps a balloon afloat does not leave a lot of room for leakage, so once a little leaks out the balloon falls

Sometimes you can catch a balloon right around the time it is neutrally buoyant, and applying heat (your hand, for instance) or cold (rub with ice cube) will change its volume just enough to make it rise or sink in

If you put helium in a balloon and let go of the balloon, the balloon rises until it pops. When it pops, the helium that escapes has no reason to stop -- it just keeps going and leaks out into space. Therefore, in the atmosphere there is very little helium at any given time. The helium that is there comes from alpha particles emitted by radioactive decay. In places that have a lot of uranium ore, natural gas tends to contain high concentrations of helium (up to 7 percent). This makes sense, since the decay of uranium emits lots of alpha particles and a natural gas pocket tends to be a sealed container underground. Helium is cryogenically distilled out of natural gas to produce the helium we put in balloons.

General Facts

  • Chemical symbol: He
  • Second lightest elemental gas, after hydrogen
  • Smallest of all molecules
  • Lowest boiling point of any element (-452.1°F, -268.9°C, 4.2 K, 7.6 R)
  • Seven times lighter than air
  • Conducts sound three times faster than air
  • Has five times air's thermal conductivity
  • Does not become radioactive under irradiation

Physical Properties
  • Colorless
  • Odorless
  • Tasteless
  • Non-toxic
  • Inert
  • Non-flammable
  • Slightly soluble in water
  • High thermal conductivity
  • In the Environment
  • Helium is produced continually by the radioactive decay of uranium and other elements, gradually working its way into the atmosphere
  • Helium atoms are light enough to escape the Earth's gravitational field and into space
  • Commercial extraction from air is impractical because helium's concentration is only about five parts per billion

Where It's Found
  • Commercially, helium is obtained from the small fraction of natural gas deposits that contain helium volumes of 0.3 percent or higher
  • Most of the world's helium comes from the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma, Kansas and the Rocky Mountains' eastern flank, other sources include the mid-east and Russia
  • These natural gas deposits contain more than 3,000 ppm of helium

Unusual Characteristics
  • At atmospheric pressure, helium becomes liquid at the lowest of all boiling points (-452°F, -269°C, 7.6 R)

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