What is Helium: Definition and 387 Discussions

Helium (from Greek: ἥλιος, romanized: helios, lit. 'sun') is a chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas, the first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements. Helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe (hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant). It is present at about 24% of the total elemental mass, which is more than 12 times the mass of all the heavier elements combined. Its abundance is similar to this in both the Sun and in Jupiter. This is due to the very high nuclear binding energy (per nucleon) of helium-4, with respect to the next three elements after helium. This helium-4 binding energy also accounts for why it is a product of both nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. Most helium in the universe is helium-4, the vast majority of which was formed during the Big Bang. Large amounts of new helium are being created by nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars.
Helium was first detected as an unknown, yellow spectral line signature in sunlight, during a solar eclipse in 1868 by Georges Rayet, Captain C. T. Haig, Norman R. Pogson, and Lieutenant John Herschel, and was subsequently confirmed by French astronomer, Jules Janssen. Janssen is often jointly credited with detecting the element, along with Norman Lockyer. Janssen recorded the helium spectral line during the solar eclipse of 1868, while Lockyer observed it from Britain. Lockyer was the first to propose that the line was due to a new element, which he named. The formal discovery of the element was made in 1895 by two Swedish chemists, Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet, who found helium emanating from the uranium ore, cleveite, which is now not regarded as a separate mineral species but as a variety of uraninite. In 1903, large reserves of helium were found in natural gas fields in parts of the United States, which is by far the largest supplier of the gas today.
Liquid helium is used in cryogenics (its largest single use, absorbing about a quarter of production), particularly in the cooling of superconducting magnets, with the main commercial application being in MRI scanners. Helium's other industrial uses—as a pressurizing and purge gas, as a protective atmosphere for arc welding, and in processes such as growing crystals to make silicon wafers—account for half of the gas produced. A well-known but minor use is as a lifting gas in balloons and airships. As with any gas whose density differs from that of air, inhaling a small volume of helium temporarily changes the timbre and quality of the human voice. In scientific research, the behavior of the two fluid phases of helium-4 (helium I and helium II) is important to researchers studying quantum mechanics (in particular the property of superfluidity) and to those looking at the phenomena, such as superconductivity, produced in matter near absolute zero.
On Earth, it is relatively rare—5.2 ppm by volume in the atmosphere. Most terrestrial helium present today is created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements (thorium and uranium, although there are other examples), as the alpha particles emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations as great as 7% by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation. Previously, terrestrial helium—a non-renewable resource because once released into the atmosphere, it promptly escapes into space—was thought to be in increasingly short supply. However, recent studies suggest that helium produced deep in the earth by radioactive decay can collect in natural gas reserves in larger than expected quantities, in some cases, having been released by volcanic activity.

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  1. Nik_2213

    Non-cryogenic separation of Helium_3 from Helium_4?

    IIRC, He_3 is usually separated from much less rare He_4 by cryogenic cooling of gas mix to 'liquid', at which point the mix divides to two phases, one with each isotope... IIRC, Hydrogen and Deuterium, as gas mix, may be progressively separated at near-ambient conditions by differential...
  2. C

    Helium balloon energy conservation

    For this problem, How can energy be conserved if the bit highlighted in orange is true?Many thanks!
  3. uxioq99

    Instantaneous Decay of Tritium into Helium

    I have been self-studying the MIT 8.04 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course. This question is not graded, so I have no reservation asking about it on the internet. Imagine an electron bound by tritium (Z=1). One of the two neutrons undergoes beta decay and becomes a proton, causing the...
  4. datadrug

    Containing helium for a few hours

    Hello experts, First post here, and the reason I have found this forum is because I've spent the past few hours trying to figure something out. I'm in the field of data recovery, and we are starting to see helium filled drives. They are starting to be filled with HE due to factors like less...
  5. Vincentjacobprice

    Why doesn't helium have any effect on the sound of my voice?

    How did you find PF?: By searching for a answer to my question and everyone only knows how helium effects the sound of their voice not mine.No one has a a answer to the question why doesn't helium have any effect on the sound of my voice? My question that no one has a answer to and ignores the...
  6. P

    I Can the Helium atom be solved by other methods?

    The schrodinger equation for helium is (−ℏ^2/2me(∇21+∇22)+V(r1)+V(r2)+V(r12))ψ=Eψ V(r12)=1/(r12-r1) which makes the equation inseparable. Can other methods be used to solve it.
  7. sophiecentaur

    How does the 'Helium' Network work?

    The Helium Network describes itself as a Community network of hotspots and claims to be a source of revenue for members. The literature (example here) only seems to talk in vague terms of providing connectivity via hotspots. I can see my neighbour's box on his chimney but I can't find any...
  8. H

    A Helium Atom Eigenfunctions

    Are there any results on the structure of the helium atom eigenfunctions? By this I'm referring to the non-perturbative structure of the eigenfunctions, AKA what are the quantum numbers that one would use to label the eigenfunctions?
  9. Freaky Fred

    B Helium Balloon: Explaining Special Relativity Effects

    Hi, guys o/ Suppose a person sees a helium balloon moving horizontally at close to the speed of light. From this perspective, the observer will see the helium balloon contract in accordance with special relativity. If helium contracts to the point where it is denser than air, will it fall? how...
  10. S

    NASA What did Apollo CM use helium for?

    Hello All Diagrams of the Apollo Command Module show tanks of helium, What was this used for? best regards ... Stef
  11. L

    B Nuclear fusion question -- Calculations for Hydrogen fusing into Helium

    I read in 2 books that 4 atoms of Hydrogen fuse and give 1 atom of Helium and 2 electrons, and these 2 electrons convert to light. And that the mass of the Helium is less than the mass of the 4 atoms of Hydrogen, thus that the mass lost converted to light too. But I sum up the masses of...
  12. LCSphysicist

    Wave function for the Helium molecule

    I am having a trouble to understand why the helium's wave function (in which we are ignoring the electric interaction between the electrons, as well the motion and problems that arise in considering the nucleus in the wave function) can be written as the product of the wave function of both...
  13. jaketodd

    Misc. What's needed to get liquid helium to climb up a beaker? Thanks

    Any idea how much this would cost and how difficult? Should I forget about trying it myself and visit a university? Thanks
  14. D

    A Numerical Hartree Fock with Finite Difference Matrices for Helium

    Here is the paper again: https://www.mdpi.com/2218-2004/6/2/22?type=check_update&version=2#related_content For a class project I need to calculate the energy levels of atoms using the Hartree Fock method as presented in this paper which essentially brute forces the calculation using finite...
  15. WMDhamnekar

    MHB What is the final pressure of helium and neon gas mixture in this case?

    The answer given to the above question is Final pressure$=\frac{(10.0mol\times 5.00bar) + (5.00 mol \times 20.0 bar)}{(10.0 mol +5.00 mol)}= 10.0 bar$ Is this answer correct? if yes, How and why? My question is while computing this answer, the volumes of each gas is not considered. Note:-...
  16. G

    Why does the pressure-volume-constant of Helium increase?

    Im doing a lab on an online software called beyond labs. On this software I am able to test gas laws by adding ideal and real gasses to a balloon in a pressure chamber. When I am conducting the test I have a consistent temperature of 298K and .300 moles across all the tests; the only variables...
  17. T

    How can I calculate relative humidity in helium?

    Hello, I want to calculate the relative humidity in Helium. I only have the variables "dew point temperature", "gas temperature" and "gas pressure". So I tried with Magnus and Antoine equation. But I read that the Antoine equation is very unprecise. So do you know how to calculate the relative...
  18. A

    B Entangled electrons in helium

    If you measure the location of an electron in helium, does it impact the expectation value for the location of the other? Also, can this experiment be conducted in practice? Thanks.
  19. E

    A Exclusion principle in Helium 3

    I was wondering about the following question. On the one hand, Helium 3 is spin 1/2. But, on the other hand, there are multiple combinations of internal spins that would lead to total spin being spin-up or spin-down. So what would happen if we insist that all helium 3 atoms are at lowest...
  20. S

    Wavelength of the red colour of this helium discharge tube

    Red has the longest wavelength compared to the two other colours so the location of red will be at point C. x = 11.5 cm L = 30 cm d = 1870 nm Putting all into the formula, I get λ = 717 nm Where is my msitake? Thanks
  21. haushofer

    I Alpha decay: why Helium nuclei?

    Dear all, in my teaching of nuclear physics at high school level I noticed that I never really wondered about why alpha decay consists of helium nuclei. So I consulted a lot of lecture notes online, but couldn't find a satisfying answer. The texts I used in the past are "concepts of modern...
  22. Y

    Low-Temp Liquid Helium System: Evaporation Heat & Temperature

    We consider a system composed of liquid helium in equilibrium with its vapor at very low temperature T, each phase being considered extensive. We neglect the mass of the gas compared to that of the liquid, as well as the heat capacities of the gas and the walls compared to that of the liquid...
  23. L

    Creating a Long Life Helium balloon

    Why do metalised film helium balloons only last about a week? Could I improve this result and make a balloon float for a year? (and don't cheat and say just make it bigger) how do I stop it leaking? Are there any better materials to make it from? (unlimited budget) As I understand aluminium...
  24. olgerm

    I Wave function for a helium atom

    Can you say whether I understood these things correctly? to get condition on wavefunction ##\Psi## for a system that consists of 2 electrons(without taking spin into account) and helium nuclei I can solve schrödinger equation: ##i*\frac{\partial \Psi}{\partial...
  25. M

    Rydberg Constant for Helium

    I thought the ratio was purely 4, because Helium's Z = 2 (atomic mass). Apparently this is not true, and now I'm stuck... I think there must be some other form of equation for the rydberg constant that is more general, but google and wikipedia are not helping that much. Any thoughts?
  26. men5j2s

    Can I calculate the flow rate of a compressed gas from pressure?

    I am using a compressed gas tank to fill an otherwise empty container, The gas tank is around 50bar and the container will be filled to 6bar. If I am using a pressure transducer to determine when the container has been filled to 6bar, can I use the information I gain from it to derive the flow...
  27. neilparker62

    I Measuring the Helium Spectrum: Friederich Paschen 1916

    Re page 14 of following reference: https://zenodo.org/record/1447321#.XSyx3z9LjIU If I understand correctly this page is showing a set of measurements for the fine structure of singly ionized Helium at +- 4686 Angstrom. Can we figure out from this which specific transitions are being measured...
  28. A

    B Ultra high pressure supersolid helium

    Assuming you could get around the material and engineering problems with anything at high pressures what would happen if you kept pressurizing helium past a super solid state. If the pressures where high enough would you have a similar effect to metallic hydrogen with it behaving as a degenerate...
  29. Z

    What does a helium balloon do on the ISS vs in open space?

    What does a helium balloon do on the ISS . most say, its a 0 g environment, but is it really the same as intercosmos travel "0g"? I saw a video of helium ballons on the vomit comet, where during the "0 g phase" the helium balloons went to the floor, while all other things floated. I would...
  30. pinball1970

    I Helium Hydride data, Early universe chemistry evidence?

    I don't think there is a thread on this? R Gusten et al, Nature, 2019, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1090-x
  31. D

    B How high can a helium baloon rise to space?

    Hey i have these ideas in which i use helium baloons. I wonder how high does it go and what is the gravity force and pressure at this point?
  32. R

    I Question about excited Helium states

    Most of the books I've seen they say that the first excited state of Helium (with two electrons, one in orbital 1s and other in 2s) can have the two electrons with parallel spin (orthohelium) or anti-parallel spin (parahelium). If ##\operatorname{X_{↑}}{\left (n \right )}## represent the state...
  33. Chromatic_Universe

    A Equilibrium recombination temperature for Helium

    How to get to the expression for equilibrium recombination temperature for Helium?
  34. ezfzx

    I Reconciling alpha particle mass

    Ugh ... I remember there was a reason ... but forgot what it was. So here's 3 bits of information gathered from dozens of sources, textbooks, official sites: Alpha particles are identical to Helium nuclei. Alpha particle mass = 4.001506 u helium-4 nuclei mass = 4.0026032 u OK, so ... why...
  35. YoungPhysicist

    B Can liquid helium conduct heat infinitely fast?

    Can liquid helium is superfluidity state conduct heat infinitely fast? I thought I have seen this is a paper somewhere a long time ago, but now I am not sure about that.
  36. A

    What is the correct way to find the temperature of helium in this scenario?

    Homework Statement Helium is kept in a pressure vessel at a pressure of 5.42 bar and the resulting density is 0.92 kg/m3. The gas constant R is 8.314 J/(mol*K). The volume of the vessel is 1589.194 m3. I need to find the temperature of helium in Celsius. Homework Equations...
  37. Pat Trainor

    Keeping helium in an unsealed balloon?

    Along the same lines as an earlier post about helium and materials that wouldn't allow it to permeate it, I wondered if a helium balloon with a fill tube would actually need to be sealed. What I mean is, imagine a balloon that has been filled with a 20'-30' very thin tube that is still attached...
  38. Pat Trainor

    Need a material that can hold Helium....

    Experts, I'm in need of a balloon to hold an RF antenna aloft, and that can have a light (LED) in it. For cost & safety, it appears Helium is the choice. But everything I'm reading says that He atoms are so tiny they pass (eventually) through traditional balloon materials quickly. There is a...
  39. BlackPowder

    Why helium is easier to ionize than N2?

    Helium has a higher 1st ionization energy (24.58eV) than N2 (15.6eV) and O2 (12.06eV). For an atmospheric room-temperature helium, why it is easier to get ionized than the daily life air under a same discharge setup? For example, for the Paschen curves, N2 locates at the left of He which means...
  40. QuarkDecay

    A Doubly excited Atom of Helium

    The Atom of Helium is doubly excited in 2p2 1D Can someone explain to me how these energy symbols work? I have a problem with what the 1D means specifically. I know 2p2 means two electrons in the 2p state. The 1 in 1D could be referring to electron being in a singleton, but I don't understand...
  41. A

    DFT for Helium using Mathematica

    I'm trying to solve this problem with Mathematica. Im not a Mathematica expert, but my program works perfect when vhartree={0,0,..,0}. This is the program I wrote: Clear[u, poisson, vhartree] h = 10^(-2);(*step integration*) rmax = 20; rmin = 10^(-30); Z = 2; (*atomic number*) points =...
  42. Zahid Iftikhar

    I Energy Transfer Mechanism in Helium Neon Gas Laser

    I need help to understand the energy transfer mechanism in Helium Neon Gas laser. When helium atom is excited and staying in its metastable state, it is said to have collision with neon atom and thus transfers its 20.61eV energy plus some of its kinetic energy 0.05eV to enable neon atom to reach...
  43. Q

    I Can we produce helium 3 from proton-deuterium fusion

    High power laser Peta Watt are available, will it enable to produce helium 3 from deuterium-proton fusion? FYI, there many experiments show 10^9 reaction rate in p-b11 reaction. But we can get better rate? What is the maximum theoretical reaction rate for this easier p-d reaction? Ref. 10-15...
  44. A

    A Helium atom, variation method and virial theorem

    I need to calculate the energy of the ground state of a helium athom with the variational method using the wave function: $$\psi_{Z_e}(r_1,r_2)=u_{1s,Z_e}(r1)u_{1s, Z_e}(r2)=\frac{1}{\pi}\biggr(\frac{Z_e}{a_0}\biggr)^3e^{-\frac{Z_e(r_1+r_2)}{a_0}}$$ with ##Z_e## the effective charge considered...
  45. It's me

    Energy levels of a system with just two electrons?

    Homework Statement If a system comprised only of two electrons was physically possible (such as positronium but with two electrons), what would its energy levels be and how would they relate to the energy levels of Helium? Homework Equations ##E_{Helium} = E_{n1}+E_{n2}=-\frac{\mu Z^2...
  46. M

    Gas mix of helium and nitrogen

    Homework Statement A vessel contains a mix of helium and nitrogen (ideal gases). The ratio of the partial pressures is known: ##\frac{p_{N2}}{pHe} = 5##. The partial pressure is the pressure that a single component alone would exert. Homework Equations What is the value of ##\kappa = c_p/c_V##...
  47. Marcus95

    Liquidification of Helium under constant Enthelphy Condition

    Homework Statement a)Helium enters a closed system as a flow of compressed gas at a temperature of 14 K and at pressure p (enthalpy conserved). A fraction α emerges as liquid and the rest as gas at 14 K, both at atmospheric pressure p0. Find an expression for α in terms of the enthalpy H(p) of...
  48. P

    Lifting a Man with 100m^3 of Helium

    Hi, Reading about different ways to lift a human being, I've come to realize the easiest is simply manipulating density as follows: Denisty of Air at STP: 1.20 kg/m^3 Density of He at STP: 0.000179 kg/m^3 Therefore for every cubic metre (m^3) of air displacement, lift achieved is ~1.2 kg/m^3...
  49. J

    B Superfluid Helium and its use at CERN

    Hi, Wikipedia says CERN uses 100 gallons of superfluid helium 4 to cool its superconducting magnets. Why use superfluid helium 4 (2K) as apposed to regular liquid helium (4.2K). As far as I can see from Internet sources, the helium serves to keep the magnets in order to keep them in a...
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