• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

helium essay

Extracts from this document...


The essentials

  • Name: magnesium
  • Symbol: Mg
  • Atomic number: 12
  • Atomic weight: 24.3050 (6)
  • CAS Registry ID: 7439-95-4
  • Group number: 2
  • Group name: Alkaline earth metal
  • Period number: 3
  • Block: s-block

The essentials

  • Name: helium
  • Symbol: He
  • Atomic number: 2
  • Atomic weight: 4.002602 (2) gr
  • CAS Registry ID: 7440-59-7
  • Group number: 18
  • Group name: Noble gas
  • Period number: 1
  • Block: p-block

Description image00.png

Here is a brief description of helium.

  • Standard state: gas at 298 K
  • Colour: colourless
  • Classification: Non-metallic
  • Availability:

Helium is one of the so-called noble gases. Helium gas is unreactive, colourless, and odourless. Helium is available in pressurised tanks.

Elemental helium is a colourless odourless monoatomic gas. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen. α particles are doubly ionised helium atoms, He2+.

Helium is used in lighter than air balloons and while heavier than hydrogen, is far safer since helium does not burn. Speaking after breathing an atmosphere rich in helium results in a squeaky voice (don't try it!).


Here is a brief summary of the isolation of helium.

There is very little helium on earth as nearly all present during and immediately after the earth's formation has long since been lost as it is so light. Just about all the helium remaining on the planet is the result of radioactive decay.

...read more.


What's in a name?

For the Greek god of the sun, Helius.

Say what?

Helium is pronounced as HEE-lee-em.

History and Uses:

Helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, was discovered on the sun before it was found on the earth. Pierre-Jules-César Janssen, a French astronomer, noticed a yellow line in the sun's spectrum while studying a total solar eclipse in 1868. Sir Norman Lockyer, an English astronomer, realized that this line, with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers, could not be produced by any element known at the time. It was hypothesized that a new element on the sun was responsible for this mysterious yellow emission. This unknown element was named helium by Lockyer.

The hunt to find helium on earth ended in 1895. Sir William Ramsay, a Scottish chemist, conducted an experiment with a mineral containing uranium called clevite. He exposed the clevite to mineral acids and collected the gases that were produced. He then sent a sample of these gases to two scientists, Lockyer and Sir William Crookes, who were able to identify the helium within it. Two Swedish chemists, Nils Langlet and Per Theodor Cleve, independently found helium in clevite at about the same time as Ramsay.

Helium makes up about 0.0005% of the earth's atmosphere. This trace amount of helium is not gravitationally bound to the earth and is constantly lost to space. The earth's atmospheric helium is replaced by the decay of radioactive elements in the earth's crust. Alpha decay, one type of radioactive decay, produces particles called alpha particles. An alpha particle can become a helium atom once it captures two electrons from its surroundings. This newly formed helium can eventually work its way to the atmosphere through cracks in the crust.

Helium is commercially recovered from natural gas deposits, mostly from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Helium gas is used to inflate blimps, scientific balloons and party balloons. It is used as an inert shield for arc welding, to pressurize the fuel tanks of liquid fueled rockets and in supersonic windtunnels. 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. The Department of Energy's Jefferson Lab uses large amounts of liquid helium to operate its superconductive electron accelerator.

Helium is an inert gas and does not easily combine with other elements. There are no known compounds that contain helium, although attempts are being made to produce helium diflouride (HeF2).

Estimated Crustal Abundance:

8×10-3 milligrams per kilogram

Estimated Oceanic Abundance:

7×10-6 milligrams per liter

Number of Stable Isotopes:


(View all isotope data)

Ionization Energy:

24.587 eV

Oxidation State:


...read more.


Helium is extensively used for filling balloons as it is a much safer gas than hydrogen. One of the recent largest uses for helium has been for pressuring liquid fuel rockets. A Saturn booster, like the type used on the Apollo lunar missions, required about 13 million ft3 of helium for a firing, plus more for checkouts.

Liquid helium's use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) continues to increase as the medical profession accepts and develops new uses for the equipment. This equipment has eliminated some need for exploratory surgery by accurately diagnosing patients. Another medical application uses MRE to determine (by blood analysis) whether a patient has any form of cancer.

Helium is also being used to advertise on blimps for various companies, including Goodyear. Other lifting gas applications are being developed by the Navy and Air Force to detect low-flying cruise missiles. Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Agency is using radar-equipped blimps to detect drug smugglers along the United States boarders. In addition, NASA is currently using helium-filled balloons to sample the atmosphere in Antarctica to determine what is depleting the ozone layer.


Materials which become super conductive at higher temperatures than the boiling point of helium could have a major impact on the demand for helium. These less costly refrigerant materials could replace the present need to cool superconductive materials to the boiling point of helium.

Title Picture: Diagrammatic helium atom. There are only two electrons orbiting helium's nucleus.

...read more.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Earth and Beyond section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Earth and Beyond essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Global Warming - Is it man Made?

    Pollution can cause all sorts of problems like asthma. To say the world is warming because of humans is a very bold claim. Lots of factors go into warming the Earth. To focus on just one, CO2 is very native. It can also be very dangerous as it sacrifices our economic stability and standard of living.

  2. Science Case Study - Dinosaurs

    It was suggested by McLean that whilst India drifted over a mantle plume (Figure 2) causing many volcanic eruptions on the land. Molten rock rises out of the core of the Earth, through the mantle plume, bursting out of a volcano as a huge eruption of lava that often covers vast amounts of land.

  1. What are stars made of?

    You can also tell the size of each star from the graph as the higher the radius the higher the temperature and luminosity. Star Formation: Information and images for star formation from http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~js/ast122/lectures/lec09.html Stars form inside fairly dense concentrations of interstellar gas and dust known as molecular clouds.

  2. Victorian Press and the Working Classes

    to decide whether or not my hypothesis will hold firm or in fact need to be altered. In 1838 a new newspaper became available named the Northern Star. However there was a difference about this paper. It was based solely on the issues and needs of the working classes.

  1. Conduct a research study looking at the detailed history of the stars.

    My preliminary research has included visiting museums such as the Science museum and Natural History museum in London, where exhibitions based on the universe include details about the stars and history of how they came around. I have also visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which features great information on astronomy.

  2. In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.

    of things has a beginning, and is not created out of nothing. We have no need for a miraculous 'big bang', the world we know was created by the commandment of God. We have made no apology for turning to the scriptures for support.

  1. Journey to the farthest planet (Pluto).

    There are still numerous other suggestions which stretch possibilities. So, I think it is time for scientists to try new ways and different approach to this epoch. Solving the Mystery of Insect Flight Summary Scientists have finally given some new theories to answer the mysteries of insect flight.

  2. When one begins to study satellites he or she is bound to find out ...

    Gamma rays are units of short-wavelength radiation and are produced by orbiting reactors. According to Beardsley, these reactors can cause a great deal of damage if they are burned in the atmosphere (14-15). Some organizations have worked to ban these reactors in an effort to decrease the danger involved.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work