Helium Facts

Helium Facts
Helium (He) has two protons in its nucleus, giving the atomic number two. It is the second most abundant element in the universe and is also the second lightest, following behind hydrogen in both cases. It was discovered in 1868 due to a new yellow line in the solar spectrum wavelength of 587.49 nanometers found by Pierre-Jules-C├ęsar Janssen following a solar eclipse; it was astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer who named it helium, after the sun. At the time, he and his colleagues believed helium to only exist on the sun, as its detection was part of the solar spectrum and not visible elsewhere.
Interesting Helium Facts:
Helium is present in our Earth's atmosphere at approximately 0.0005% by volume, which is considered very rare.
It is the only known element that will remain at a liquid state at a temperature of absolute zero under normal pressure.
There are eight isotopes of helium, but only two are stable and are abundant.
Its origin has been traced back to the decay of radioactive elements found in rocks .
In 1895, Sir William Ramsey found helium on Earth when he experimented with combining the uraninite material cleveite with mineral acids.
At the same time, N. A. Langley and P. T. Cleve discovered helium independently and are also credited with helium's discovery.
There is very little natural helium on Earth. It is so light that it has been lost to the atmosphere since the planet's formation.
The helium that we do use commercially today is generated by isolating it from other sources.
Helium can be isolated from the atmosphere by liquefaction, but that is an expensive process.
Helium that is used today is actually produced by isolating it from other natural gases through fractional distillation.
Helium is actually slightly heavier than hydrogen, but helium is used for making objects "float" because it is safer to work with than the highly-combustible hydrogen.
Due to its safer properties, the US Navy experimented with creating "barrage ships" during World War I.
In the 1920s, the US stockpiled helium and once controlled the largest supply of helium in the world, before selling it off in the 1990s.
Helium has important research and medical uses, such as in breathing assistance for premature infants and in MRI technology.
Liquid helium is used to supercool giant magnets, mostly in medical uses such as the MRI scanners.
In December 2012, scientists began warning that the supply of helium still left on Earth is becoming dangerously low, and that some of its more frivolous commercial uses like party balloons should be banned.
Scientists have been proposing since 1986 that we explore the viability of mining helium from the moon.
The United States National Helium Reserve controls 30% of the world's current helium supply, and the Reserve is expected to run out of helium by 2018.


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