Facts about the Chemical Element Helium

Helium is a chemical element, which appears in the periodic  table of elements as the second lightest element, following the chemical element hydrogen.  Helium is the first noble gas showing in the top left side of the periodic table. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, with hydrogen being the most abundant.  Helium was detected for the first time in 1868 in a yellow spectral line of the Sun. Enormous reserves of helium were detected in 1903 in Drexter, Kansas, making the U.S. the greatest supplier of this element in the world to date.

Helium facts

The chemical element helium is the second element in the periodic table of elements. The element helium, which has the atomic number 2, is composed of two electrons orbiting a nucleus containing two protons.

Helium-4 accounts for approximately 25 percent of all matter in the universe, excluding hydrogen, which accounts for about 73 percent and all other elements constituting the other percentage (2 percent).

Helium, which is the second most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, is not as common on Earth. Some helium on Earth results from radioactive decay from the elements thorium and uranium and from its extraction from natural gas sources.

The concentration of helium is 8 parts per billion in the Earth’s crust. In the ocean, the concentration is 4 parts per trillion. There are small concentrations of helium in volcanic gas, mineral springs and meteoric iron. The greatest concentrations of helium on Earth are found in natural gas, with varying concentrations of a few ppm to up to 5 percent found in New Mexico, U.S.

Helium is the least reactive of the noble gases, meaning that it does not react chemically with other elements; however, it has been discovered that some noble gases react to form chemical compounds through the addition of big quantities of energy.

Helium has a low boiling point of -268.6 °C (4.549994 K or 451.48 °F), which is the temperature at which helium will turn into vapor. Helium is so light that when it is released into the atmosphere, it overcomes the force of gravity until it is able to escape into space. Because of this quality, helium is used to lift airships and balloons.

At temperatures that come close to absolute zero, helium turns into a liquid, acquiring the properties of a superfluid and flowing with zero friction inside the walls of tanks containing it.

As the pressure rises, so helium’s ability to become a solid. Helium turns into a solid at the pressure of 114 thousand atmospheres at room temperature, which is a pressure that surpasses for hundreds of times the pressure at the deepest point in the ocean.

Most helium in the universe is thought to have been created during the first three minutes after the Big Bang. In the present, helium is being created in Sun-like stars, where temperatures rise high enough to start nuclear fusion. The word helium derives from the word helios, which is the Greek word for the Sun. The detection of helium has allowed scientists to discover the nature of the formation of stars and the method by which helium was detected, spectroscopy, allowed scientists to discover the existence of new elements. According to education.jlab.org, the small amounts of helium on Earth are continuously lost into space due to the lightness of the element.