Product Code Database
Example Keywords: energy -music $30
   » » Wiki: Helium
Tag Wiki 'Helium'.
Helium is a with He and 2. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, , , the first in the group in the . Its point is the lowest among all the .

Helium is the second lightest element and is the second most abundant element in the observable , being 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 figure in the and in . This is due to the very high nuclear binding energy (per ) 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 and radioactive decay. Most helium in the universe is helium-4, and is believed to have been formed during the . Large amounts of new helium are being created by nuclear fusion of in .

Helium is named for the of the Sun, . It was first detected as an unknown yellow signature in sunlight during a solar eclipse in 1868 by French astronomer . Janssen is jointly credited with detecting the element along with . Jannsen observed during the solar eclipse of 1868 while Lockyer observed 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 chemists, Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet, who found helium emanating from the . 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 scanners. Helium's other industrial uses—as a pressurizing and purge gas, as a protective atmosphere for and in processes such as growing crystals to make —account for half of the gas produced. A well-known but minor use is as a lifting gas in and . Helium: Up, Up and Away? Melinda Rose, Photonics Spectra, October 2008. Accessed February 27, 2010. For a more authoritative but older 1996 pie chart showing U.S. helium use by sector, showing much the same result, see the chart reproduced in "Applications" section of this article. 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 . 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 ) and to those looking at the phenomena, such as superconductivity, produced in near .

On Earth it is relatively rare—5.2 ppm by volume in the . Most terrestrial helium present today is created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements ( and , although there are other examples), as the emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 . This helium is trapped with in concentrations up to 7% by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation. Previously, terrestrial helium was thought to be a non-renewable resource because once released into the atmosphere, it readily escapes into space.Witchalls, Clint (18 August 2010) Nobel prizewinner: We are running out of helium. New Scientist. However, recent studies suggest that helium is produced deep in the earth by radioactive decay, and that large untapped reserves may exist under the in and in natural gas reserves. Geologists/Researchers of Durham and Oxford universities found large quantities of helium within the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley.


Scientific discoveries
The first evidence of helium was observed on August 18, 1868, as a bright yellow line with a of 587.49 nanometers in the spectrum of the of the . The line was detected by French astronomer during a total in , . This line was initially assumed to be . On October 20 of the same year, English astronomer observed a yellow line in the solar spectrum, which he named the D3 because it was near the known D1 and D2 lines of sodium. ξ1 He concluded that it was caused by an element in the Sun unknown on Earth. Lockyer and English chemist named the element with the Greek word for the Sun, ἥλιος ( ). In 1882, Italian physicist detected helium on Earth for the first time through its D3 spectral line, when he analyzed the of . ξ2 On March 26, 1895, Scottish chemist isolated helium on Earth by treating the mineral (a variety of with at least 10% rare earth elements) with mineral . Ramsay was looking for but, after separating and from the gas liberated by , he noticed a bright yellow line that matched the D3 line observed in the spectrum of the Sun. These samples were identified as helium by Lockyer and British physicist . It was independently isolated from cleveite in the same year by chemists Per Teodor Cleve and in Uppsala, Sweden, who collected enough of the gas to accurately determine its . Helium was also isolated by the American geochemist William Francis Hillebrand prior to Ramsay's discovery when he noticed unusual spectral lines while testing a sample of the mineral uraninite. Hillebrand, however, attributed the lines to nitrogen. His letter of congratulations to Ramsay offers an interesting case of discovery and near-discovery in science.

In 1907, Ernest Rutherford and Thomas Royds demonstrated that are helium by allowing the particles to penetrate the thin glass wall of an evacuated tube, then creating a discharge in the tube to study the spectra of the new gas inside. In 1908, helium was first liquefied by physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes by cooling the gas to less than one . He tried to solidify it by further reducing the temperature but failed because helium does not solidify at atmospheric pressure. Onnes' student Willem Hendrik Keesom was eventually able to solidify 1 cm3 of helium in 1926 by applying additional external pressure.

In 1938, Russian physicist Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa discovered that helium-4 has almost no at temperatures near , a phenomenon now called . This phenomenon is related to Bose–Einstein condensation. In 1972, the same phenomenon was observed in helium-3, but at temperatures much closer to absolute zero, by American physicists Douglas D. Osheroff, David M. Lee, and Robert C. Richardson. The phenomenon in helium-3 is thought to be related to pairing of helium-3 to make , in analogy to of electrons producing superconductivity.

Extraction and use
After an oil drilling operation in 1903 in Dexter, Kansas, produced a gas geyser that would not burn, Kansas state geologist collected samples of the escaping gas and took them back to the University of Kansas at Lawrence where, with the help of chemists and David McFarland, he discovered that the gas consisted of, by volume, 72% nitrogen, 15% (a percentage only with sufficient oxygen), 1% , and 12% an unidentifiable gas. With further analysis, Cady and McFarland discovered that 1.84% of the gas sample was helium. This showed that despite its overall rarity on Earth, helium was concentrated in large quantities under the American Great Plains, available for extraction as a byproduct of .

This enabled the United States to become the world's leading supplier of helium. Following a suggestion by Sir Richard Threlfall, the United States Navy sponsored three small experimental helium plants during World War I. The goal was to supply with the non-flammable, lighter-than-air gas. A total of of 92% helium was produced in the program even though less than a cubic meter of the gas had previously been obtained. Some of this gas was used in the world's first helium-filled airship, the U.S. Navy's C-7, which flew its maiden voyage from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to in Washington, D.C., on December 1, 1921, nearly two years before the Navy's first rigid helium-filled airship, the Naval Aircraft Factory-built USS Shenandoah, flew in September 1923.

Although the extraction process, using low-temperature , was not developed in time to be significant during World War I, production continued. Helium was primarily used as a in lighter-than-air craft. During World War II, the demand increased for helium for lifting gas and for shielded arc . The helium mass spectrometer was also vital in the atomic bomb Manhattan Project.

The government of the United States set up the National Helium Reserve in 1925 at Amarillo, Texas, with the goal of supplying military in time of war and commercial airships in peacetime. Because of the Helium Control Act (1927), which banned the export of scarce helium on which the US then had a production monopoly, together with the prohibitive cost of the gas, the Hindenburg, like all German , was forced to use hydrogen as the lift gas. The helium market after World War II was depressed but the reserve was expanded in the 1950s to ensure a supply of as a coolant to create oxygen/hydrogen (among other uses) during the and . Helium use in the United States in 1965 was more than eight times the peak wartime consumption.

After the "Helium Acts Amendments of 1960" (Public Law 86–777), the U.S. Bureau of Mines arranged for five private plants to recover helium from natural gas. For this helium conservation program, the Bureau built a pipeline from Bushton, Kansas, to connect those plants with the government's partially depleted Cliffside gas field near Amarillo, Texas. This helium-nitrogen mixture was injected and stored in the Cliffside gas field until needed, at which time it was further purified.

By 1995, a billion cubic meters of the gas had been collected and the reserve was US$1.4 billion in debt, prompting the Congress of the United States in 1996 to phase out the reserve.Stwertka, Albert (1998). Guide to the Elements: Revised Edition. New York; Oxford University Press, p. 24. ISBN 0-19-512708-0 The resulting "Helium Privatization Act of 1996"Helium Privatization Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–273) directed the United States Department of the Interior to empty the reserve, with sales starting by 2005.

Helium produced between 1930 and 1945 was about 98.3% pure (2% nitrogen), which was adequate for airships. In 1945, a small amount of 99.9% helium was produced for welding use. By 1949, commercial quantities of Grade A 99.95% helium were available.

For many years, the United States produced more than 90% of commercially usable helium in the world, while extraction plants in Canada, Poland, Russia, and other nations produced the remainder. In the mid-1990s, a new plant in , Algeria, producing 17 million cubic meters (600 million cubic feet) began operation, with enough production to cover all of Europe's demand. Meanwhile, by 2000, the consumption of helium within the U.S. had risen to more than 15 million kg per year. In 2004–2006, additional plants in Ras Laffan, , and , Algeria were built. Algeria quickly became the second leading producer of helium. Through this time, both helium consumption and the costs of producing helium increased. From 2002 to 2007 helium prices doubled.

As of 2012, the United States National Helium Reserve accounted for 30 percent of the world's helium. The reserve was expected to run out of helium in 2018. Despite that, a proposed bill in the United States Senate would allow the reserve to continue to sell the gas. Other large reserves were in the Hugoton in , United States, and nearby gas fields of Kansas and the of and . New helium plants were scheduled to open in 2012 in , Russia, and the United States state of , but they were not expected to ease the shortage.

In 2013, Qatar started up the world's largest helium unit. Air Liquide Press Release. 2014 was widely acknowledged to be a year of over-supply in the helium business, following years of renowned shortages. Gasworld, 25 Dec 2014. Nasdaq reported (2015) that for Air Products, an international corporation that sells gases for industrial use, helium volumes remain under pressure due to feedstock supply constraints. Will Air Products' (APD) Earnings Surprise Estimates in Q2? – Analyst Blog


The helium atom

Helium in quantum mechanics
In the perspective of quantum mechanics, helium is the second simplest to model, following the . Helium is composed of two electrons in surrounding a nucleus containing two protons and (usually) two neutrons. As in Newtonian mechanics, no system that consists of more than two particles can be solved with an exact analytical mathematical approach (see 3-body problem) and helium is no exception. Thus, numerical mathematical methods are required, even to solve the system of one nucleus and two electrons. Such computational chemistry methods have been used to create a quantum mechanical picture of helium electron binding which is accurate to within < 2% of the correct value, in a few computational steps. Such models show that each electron in helium partly screens the nucleus from the other, so that the effective nuclear charge Z which each electron sees, is about 1.69 units, not the 2 charges of a classic "bare" helium nucleus.

The related stability of the helium-4 nucleus and electron shell
The nucleus of the helium-4 atom is identical with an . High-energy electron-scattering experiments show its charge to decrease exponentially from a maximum at a central point, exactly as does the charge density of helium's own . This symmetry reflects similar underlying physics: the pair of neutrons and the pair of protons in helium's nucleus obey the same quantum mechanical rules as do helium's pair of electrons (although the nuclear particles are subject to a different nuclear binding potential), so that all these fully occupy 1s orbitals in pairs, none of them possessing orbital angular momentum, and each cancelling the other's intrinsic spin. Adding another of any of these particles would require angular momentum and would release substantially less energy (in fact, no nucleus with five nucleons is stable). This arrangement is thus energetically extremely stable for all these particles, and this stability accounts for many crucial facts regarding helium in nature.

For example, the stability and low energy of the electron cloud state in helium accounts for the element's chemical inertness, and also the lack of interaction of helium atoms with each other, producing the lowest melting and boiling points of all the elements.

In a similar way, the particular energetic stability of the helium-4 nucleus, produced by similar effects, accounts for the ease of helium-4 production in atomic reactions that involve either heavy-particle emission or fusion. Some stable helium-3 (2 protons and 1 neutron) is produced in fusion reactions from hydrogen, but it is a very small fraction compared to the highly favorable helium-4.

The unusual stability of the helium-4 nucleus is also important : it explains the fact that in the first few minutes after the , as the "soup" of free protons and neutrons which had initially been created in about 6:1 ratio cooled to the point that nuclear binding was possible, almost all first compound atomic nuclei to form were helium-4 nuclei. So tight was helium-4 binding that helium-4 production consumed nearly all of the free neutrons in a few minutes, before they could beta-decay, and also leaving few to form heavier atoms such as lithium, beryllium, or boron. Helium-4 nuclear binding per nucleon is stronger than in any of these elements (see and ) and thus, once helium had been formed, no energetic drive was available to make elements 3, 4 and 5. It was barely energetically favorable for helium to fuse into the next element with a lower energy per , carbon. However, due to lack of intermediate elements, this process requires three helium nuclei striking each other nearly simultaneously (see triple alpha process). There was thus no time for significant carbon to be formed in the few minutes after the Big Bang, before the early expanding universe cooled to the temperature and pressure point where helium fusion to carbon was no longer possible. This left the early universe with a very similar ratio of hydrogen/helium as is observed today (3 parts hydrogen to 1 part helium-4 by mass), with nearly all the neutrons in the universe trapped in helium-4.

All heavier elements (including those necessary for rocky planets like the Earth, and for carbon-based or other life) have thus been created since the Big Bang in stars which were hot enough to fuse helium itself. All elements other than hydrogen and helium today account for only 2% of the mass of atomic matter in the universe. Helium-4, by contrast, makes up about 23% of the universe's ordinary matter—nearly all the ordinary matter that is not hydrogen.

Gas and plasma phases
Helium is the second least reactive after , and thus the second least reactive of all elements. ξ3 It is and in all standard conditions. Because of helium's relatively low molar (atomic) mass, its thermal conductivity, , and sound speed in the gas phase are all greater than any other gas except . For these reasons and the small size of helium monatomic molecules, helium through solids at a rate three times that of air and around 65% that of hydrogen.

Helium is the least water- monatomic gas, and one of the least water-soluble of any gas (CF4, SF6, and C4F8 have lower mole fraction solubilities: 0.3802, 0.4394, and 0.2372 x2/10−5, respectively, versus helium's 0.70797 x2/10−5), and helium's index of refraction is closer to unity than that of any other gas. Helium has a negative Joule-Thomson coefficient at normal ambient temperatures, meaning it heats up when allowed to freely expand. Only below its Joule-Thomson inversion temperature (of about 32 to 50 K at 1 atmosphere) does it cool upon free expansion. Once precooled below this temperature, helium can be liquefied through expansion cooling.

Most extraterrestrial helium is found in a plasma state, with properties quite different from those of atomic helium. In a plasma, helium's electrons are not bound to its nucleus, resulting in very high electrical conductivity, even when the gas is only partially ionized. The charged particles are highly influenced by magnetic and electric fields. For example, in the together with ionized hydrogen, the particles interact with the Earth's , giving rise to Birkeland currents and the aurora.

Liquid helium
Unlike any other element, helium will remain liquid down to at normal pressures. This is a direct effect of quantum mechanics: specifically, the zero point energy of the system is too high to allow freezing. Solid helium requires a temperature of 1–1.5 K (about −272 °C or −457 °F) and about 25 bar (2.5 MPa) of pressure. It is often hard to distinguish solid from liquid helium since the of the two phases are nearly the same. The solid has a sharp and has a structure, but it is highly ; applying pressure in a laboratory can decrease its volume by more than 30%. With a of about 27 it is ~100 times more compressible than water. Solid helium has a density of 0.214 ± 0.006 g/cm3 at 1.15 K and 66 atm; the projected density at 0 K and 25 bar (2.5 MPa) is 0.187 ± 0.009 g/cm3.

Helium I state
Below its of 4.22 kelvins and above the of 2.1768 kelvins, the helium-4 exists in a normal colorless liquid state, called helium I. Like other liquids, helium I boils when it is heated and contracts when its temperature is lowered. Below the lambda point, however, helium does not boil, and it expands as the temperature is lowered further.

Helium I has a gas-like index of refraction of 1.026 which makes its surface so hard to see that floats of are often used to show where the surface is. This colorless liquid has a very low and a density of 0.145–0.125 g/mL (between about 0 and 4 K), which is only one-fourth the value expected from classical physics. Quantum mechanics is needed to explain this property and thus both states of liquid helium (helium I and helium II) are called quantum fluids, meaning they display atomic properties on a macroscopic scale. This may be an effect of its boiling point being so close to absolute zero, preventing random molecular motion () from masking the atomic properties.

Helium II state
Liquid helium below its lambda point (called helium II) exhibits very unusual characteristics. Due to its high thermal conductivity, when it boils, it does not bubble but rather evaporates directly from its surface. Helium-3 also has a phase, but only at much lower temperatures; as a result, less is known about the properties of the isotope.

Helium II is a superfluid, a quantum mechanical state (see: macroscopic quantum phenomena) of matter with strange properties. For example, when it flows through capillaries as thin as 10−7 to 10−8 m it has no measurable . However, when measurements were done between two moving discs, a viscosity comparable to that of gaseous helium was observed. Current theory explains this using the two-fluid model for helium II. In this model, liquid helium below the lambda point is viewed as containing a proportion of helium atoms in a , which are superfluid and flow with exactly zero viscosity, and a proportion of helium atoms in an excited state, which behave more like an ordinary fluid.

In the fountain effect, a chamber is constructed which is connected to a reservoir of helium II by a disc through which superfluid helium leaks easily but through which non-superfluid helium cannot pass. If the interior of the container is heated, the superfluid helium changes to non-superfluid helium. In order to maintain the equilibrium fraction of superfluid helium, superfluid helium leaks through and increases the pressure, causing liquid to fountain out of the container.

The thermal conductivity of helium II is greater than that of any other known substance, a million times that of helium I and several hundred times that of . This is because heat conduction occurs by an exceptional quantum mechanism. Most materials that conduct heat well have a of free electrons which serve to transfer the heat. Helium II has no such valence band but nevertheless conducts heat well. The is governed by equations that are similar to the used to characterize sound propagation in air. When heat is introduced, it moves at 20 meters per second at 1.8 K through helium II as waves in a phenomenon known as .

Helium II also exhibits a creeping effect. When a surface extends past the level of helium II, the helium II moves along the surface, against the force of . Helium II will escape from a vessel that is not sealed by creeping along the sides until it reaches a warmer region where it evaporates. It moves in a 30 -thick film regardless of surface material. This film is called a and is named after the man who first characterized this trait, Bernard V. Rollin. As a result of this creeping behavior and helium II's ability to leak rapidly through tiny openings, it is very difficult to confine liquid helium. Unless the container is carefully constructed, the helium II will creep along the surfaces and through valves until it reaches somewhere warmer, where it will evaporate. Waves propagating across a Rollin film are governed by the same equation as in shallow water, but rather than gravity, the restoring force is the van der Waals force. These waves are known as .

There are nine known of helium, but only helium-3 and helium-4 are . In the Earth's atmosphere, one atom is for every million that are . ξ4 Unlike most elements, helium's isotopic abundance varies greatly by origin, due to the different formation processes. The most common isotope, helium-4, is produced on Earth by of heavier radioactive elements; the alpha particles that emerge are fully ionized helium-4 nuclei. Helium-4 is an unusually stable nucleus because its are arranged into complete shells. It was also formed in enormous quantities during Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

Helium-3 is present on Earth only in trace amounts; most of it since Earth's formation, though some falls to Earth trapped in . Trace amounts are also produced by the of . Rocks from the Earth's crust have isotope ratios varying by as much as a factor of ten, and these ratios can be used to investigate the origin of rocks and the composition of the Earth's mantle. is much more abundant in stars as a product of nuclear fusion. Thus in the interstellar medium, the proportion of to is about 100 times higher than on Earth. Extraplanetary material, such as and , have trace amounts of helium-3 from being bombarded by . The 's surface contains helium-3 at concentrations on the order of 10 ppb, much higher than the approximately 5 ppt found in the Earth's atmosphere. A number of people, starting with Gerald Kulcinski in 1986, have proposed to explore the moon, mine lunar regolith, and use the helium-3 for .

Liquid helium-4 can be cooled to about 1 kelvin using evaporative cooling in a 1-K pot. Similar cooling of helium-3, which has a lower boiling point, can achieve about in a helium-3 refrigerator. Equal mixtures of liquid and below separate into two immiscible phases due to their dissimilarity (they follow different quantum statistics: helium-4 atoms are while helium-3 atoms are ). Dilution refrigerators use this immiscibility to achieve temperatures of a few millikelvins.

It is possible to produce exotic helium isotopes, which rapidly decay into other substances. The shortest-lived heavy helium isotope is helium-5 with a of . Helium-6 decays by emitting a and has a half-life of 0.8 second. Helium-7 also emits a beta particle as well as a . Helium-7 and helium-8 are created in certain . Helium-6 and helium-8 are known to exhibit a .

Helium has a valence of zero and is chemically unreactive under all normal conditions. It is an electrical insulator unless . As with the other noble gases, helium has metastable that allow it to remain ionized in an electrical discharge with a below its ionization potential. Helium can form unstable compounds, known as , with tungsten, iodine, fluorine, sulfur, and phosphorus when it is subjected to a , to electron bombardment, or reduced to by other means. The molecular compounds HeNe, HgHe10, and WHe2, and the molecular ions , , , and have been created this way. HeH is also stable in its ground state, but is extremely reactive—it is the strongest Brønsted acid known, and therefore can exist only in isolation, as it will protonate any molecule or counteranion it contacts. This technique has also produced the neutral molecule He2, which has a large number of , and HgHe, which is apparently held together only by polarization forces.

Van der Waals compounds of helium can also be formed with cryogenic helium gas and atoms of some other substance, such as and .

Theoretically, other true compounds may be possible, such as helium fluorohydride (HHeF) which would be analogous to HArF, discovered in 2000. Calculations show that two new compounds containing a helium-oxygen bond could be stable. Two new molecular species, predicted using theory, CsFHeO and N(CH3)4FHeO, are derivatives of a metastable F– anion first theorized in 2005 by a group from Taiwan. If confirmed by experiment, the only remaining element with no known stable compounds would be .

Helium atoms have been inserted into the hollow carbon cage molecules (the ) by heating under high pressure. The endohedral fullerene molecules formed are stable at high temperatures. When chemical derivatives of these fullerenes are formed, the helium stays inside. If helium-3 is used, it can be readily observed by helium nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Many fullerenes containing helium-3 have been reported. Although the helium atoms are not attached by covalent or ionic bonds, these substances have distinct properties and a definite composition, like all stoichiometric chemical compounds.

Under high pressures helium can form compounds with various other elements. Helium-nitrogen (He(N2)11) crystals have been grown at room temperature at pressures ca. 10 GPa in a diamond anvil cell. At 130 GPa Na2He is thermodynamically stable with a structure.

Occurrence and production

Natural abundance
Although it is rare on Earth, helium is the second most abundant element in the known Universe (after ), constituting 23% of its mass. The vast majority of helium was formed by Big Bang nucleosynthesis one to three minutes after the Big Bang. As such, measurements of its abundance contribute to cosmological models. In , it is formed by the of hydrogen in proton-proton chain reactions and the , part of stellar nucleosynthesis.;

In the Earth's atmosphere, the concentration of helium by volume is only 5.2 parts per million. The concentration is low and fairly constant despite the continuous production of new helium because most helium in the Earth's atmosphere escapes into space by several processes. In the Earth's , a part of the upper atmosphere, helium and other lighter gases are the most abundant elements.

Most helium on Earth is a result of radioactive decay. Helium is found in large amounts in minerals of and , including , , and , because they emit alpha particles (helium nuclei, He2 ) to which electrons immediately combine as soon as the particle is stopped by the rock. In this way an estimated 3000 metric tons of helium are generated per year throughout the . In the Earth's crust, the concentration of helium is 8 parts per billion. In seawater, the concentration is only 4 parts per trillion. There are also small amounts in mineral springs, volcanic gas, and . Because helium is trapped in the subsurface under conditions that also trap natural gas, the greatest natural concentrations of helium on the planet are found in natural gas, from which most commercial helium is extracted. The concentration varies in a broad range from a few ppm up to over 7% in a small gas field in San Juan County, New Mexico.

As of 2011 the world's helium reserves were estimated at 40 billion cubic meters, with a quarter of that being in the South Pars / North Dome Gas-Condensate field owned jointly by and Iran.

Modern extraction and distribution
For large-scale use, helium is extracted by fractional distillation from natural gas, which can contain up to 7% helium. Since helium has a lower than any other element, low temperature and high pressure are used to liquefy nearly all the other gases (mostly and ). The resulting crude helium gas is purified by successive exposures to lowering temperatures, in which almost all of the remaining nitrogen and other gases are precipitated out of the gaseous mixture. Activated charcoal is used as a final purification step, usually resulting in 99.995% pure Grade-A helium. The principal impurity in Grade-A helium is . In a final production step, most of the helium that is produced is liquefied via a process. This is necessary for applications requiring liquid helium and also allows helium suppliers to reduce the cost of long distance transportation, as the largest liquid helium containers have more than five times the capacity of the largest gaseous helium tube trailers.

In 2008, approximately 169 million standard cubic meters (SCM) of helium were extracted from natural gas or withdrawn from helium reserves with approximately 78% from the United States, 10% from Algeria, and most of the remainder from Russia, Poland and Qatar. By 2013, increases in helium production in Qatar (under the company managed by ) had increased Qatar's fraction of world helium production to 25%, and made it the second largest exporter after the United States.Air Liquide and Linde in Helium Hunt as Texas Reserves Dry Up, Bloomberg, 2014 [4]

In the United States, most helium is extracted from natural gas of the Hugoton and nearby gas fields in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Panhandle Field in Texas.Pierce, A. P., Gott, G. B., and Mytton, J. W. (1964). "Uranium and Helium in the Panhandle Gas Field Texas, and Adjacent Areas", Geological Survey Professional Paper 454-G, Washington:US Government Printing Office Much of this gas was once sent by pipeline to the National Helium Reserve, but since 2005 this reserve is being depleted and sold off, and is expected under present law to be largely depleted by 2021.

Diffusion of crude natural gas through special semipermeable membranes and other barriers is another method to recover and purify helium. In 1996, the U.S. had proven helium reserves, in such gas well complexes, of about 147 billion standard cubic feet (4.2 billion SCM).Committee on the Impact of Selling, Table 4.2 At rates of use at that time (72 million SCM per year in the U.S.; see pie chart below) this would have been enough helium for about 58 years of U.S. use, and less than this (perhaps 80% of the time) at world use rates, although factors in saving and processing impact effective reserve numbers.

Helium must be extracted from natural gas because it is present in air at only a fraction of that of neon, yet the demand for it is far higher. It is estimated that if all neon production were retooled to save helium, that 0.1% of the world's helium demands would be satisfied. Similarly, only 1% of the world's helium demands could be satisfied by re-tooling all air distillation plants.Committee on the Impact of Selling, see page 40 for the estimate of total theoretical helium production by neon and liquid air plants Helium can be synthesized by bombardment of or with high-velocity protons, but this process is a completely uneconomic method of production.

Helium is commercially available in either liquid or gaseous form. As a liquid, it can be supplied in small insulated containers called which hold up to 1,000 liters of helium, or in large ISO containers which have nominal capacities as large as 42 m3 (around 11,000 U.S. ). In gaseous form, small quantities of helium are supplied in high-pressure cylinders holding up to 8 m3 (approx. 282 standard cubic feet), while large quantities of high-pressure gas are supplied in tube trailers which have capacities of up to 4,860 m3 (approx. 172,000 standard cubic feet).

Https://, The Guardian 2016 Jun 28

Conservation advocates
According to helium conservationists like Nobel laureate physicist Robert Coleman Richardson, the free market price of helium has contributed to "wasteful" usage (e.g. for helium balloons). Prices in the 2000s have been lowered by U.S. Congress' decision to sell off the country's large helium stockpile by 2015. According to Richardson, the current price needs to be multiplied by 20 to eliminate the excessive wasting of helium. In their book, the Future of helium as a natural resource (Routledge, 2012), Nuttall, Clarke & Glowacki (2012) also proposed to create an International Helium Agency (IHA) to build a sustainable market for this precious commodity.

While balloons are perhaps the best known use of helium, they are a minor part of all helium use. Helium is used for many purposes that require some of its unique properties, such as its low , low , low , high thermal conductivity, or . Of the 2014 world helium total production of about 32 million kg (180 million standard cubic meters) helium per year, the largest use (about 32% of the total in 2014) is in cryogenic applications, most of which involves cooling the superconducting magnets in medical scanners and spectrometers. Helium sell-off risks future supply, Michael Banks, Physics World, 27 January 2010. accessed February 27, 2010. Other major uses were pressurizing and purging systems, welding, maintenance of controlled atmospheres, and leak detection. Other uses by category were relatively minor fractions.

Controlled atmospheres
Helium is used as a protective gas in growing and crystals, in and production, and in gas chromatography, because it is inert. Because of its inertness, nature, high speed of sound, and high value of the heat capacity ratio, it is also useful in supersonic wind tunnels and .

Gas tungsten arc welding
Helium is used as a in processes on materials that at welding temperatures are contaminated and weakened by air or nitrogen. A number of inert shielding gases are used in gas tungsten arc welding, but helium is used instead of cheaper especially for welding materials that have higher heat conductivity, like or .

Minor uses

Industrial leak detection
One industrial application for helium is . Because helium through solids three times faster than air, it is used as a tracer gas to detect in high-vacuum equipment (such as cryogenic tanks) and high-pressure containers. The tested object is placed in a chamber, which is then evacuated and filled with helium. The helium that escapes through the leaks is detected by a sensitive device (helium mass spectrometer), even at the leak rates as small as 10−9 mbar·L/s (10−10 Pa·m3/s). The measurement procedure is normally automatic and is called helium integral test. A simpler procedure is to fill the tested object with helium and to manually search for leaks with a hand-held device. ξ5

Helium leaks through cracks should not be confused with gas permeation through a bulk material. While helium has documented permeation constants (thus a calculable permeation rate) through glasses, ceramics, and synthetic materials, inert gases such as helium will not permeate most bulk metals. ξ6

Because it is lighter than air, and balloons are inflated with helium for . While hydrogen gas is more buoyant, and escapes permeating through a membrane at a lower rate, helium has the advantage of being non-flammable, and indeed . Another minor use is in , where helium is used as an medium to displace fuel and oxidizers in storage tanks and to condense hydrogen and oxygen to make . It is also used to purge fuel and oxidizer from ground support equipment prior to launch and to pre-cool liquid hydrogen in . For example, the rocket used in the needed about 370,000 m3 (13 million cubic feet) of helium to launch.

Minor commercial and recreational uses
Helium as a breathing gas has no narcotic properties, so helium mixtures such as trimix, and heliair are used for to reduce the effects of narcosis, which worsen with increasing depth. As pressure increases with depth, the density of the breathing gas also increases, and the low molecular weight of helium is found to considerably reduce the effort of breathing by lowering the density of the mixture. This reduces the of flow, leading to a reduction of and an increase in , which requires less work of breathing. At depths below divers breathing helium–oxygen mixtures begin to experience tremors and a decrease in psychomotor function, symptoms of high-pressure nervous syndrome. This effect may be countered to some extent by adding an amount of narcotic gas such as hydrogen or nitrogen to a helium–oxygen mixture.

Helium–neon lasers, a type of low-powered gas laser producing a red beam, had various practical applications which included and , before they were almost universally replaced by cheaper .

For its inertness and high thermal conductivity, neutron transparency, and because it does not form radioactive isotopes under reactor conditions, helium is used as a heat-transfer medium in some gas-cooled .

Helium, mixed with a heavier gas such as xenon, is useful for thermoacoustic refrigeration due to the resulting high heat capacity ratio and low . The inertness of helium has environmental advantages over conventional refrigeration systems which contribute to ozone depletion or global warming. ξ7

Helium is also used in some hard disk drives. HGST balloons disk capacity with helium-filled 6TB drive | Ars Technica

Scientific uses
The use of helium reduces the distorting effects of temperature variations in the space between lenses in some , due to its extremely low index of refraction. This method is especially used in solar telescopes where a vacuum tight telescope tube would be too heavy.

Helium is a commonly used carrier gas for gas chromatography.

The age of rocks and minerals that contain and can be estimated by measuring the level of helium with a process known as .

Helium at low temperatures is used in , and in certain cryogenics applications. As examples of applications, liquid helium is used to cool certain metals to the extremely low temperatures required for superconductivity, such as in superconducting magnets for magnetic resonance imaging. The Large Hadron Collider at uses 96 of liquid helium to maintain the temperature at 1.9 kelvin.

Inhalation and safety

Neutral helium at standard conditions is non-toxic, plays no biological role and is found in trace amounts in human blood.

The speed of sound in helium is nearly three times the speed of sound in air. Because the fundamental frequency of a gas-filled cavity is proportional to the speed of sound in the gas, when helium is inhaled there is a corresponding increase in the resonant frequencies of the . The fundamental frequency (sometimes called pitch) does not change, since this is produced by direct vibration of the vocal folds, which is unchanged. However, the higher resonant frequencies cause a change in , resulting in a reedy, duck-like vocal quality. The opposite effect, lowering resonant frequencies, can be obtained by inhaling a dense gas such as sulfur hexafluoride or .

Inhaling helium can be dangerous if done to excess, since helium is a simple and so displaces oxygen needed for normal respiration. Fatalities have been recorded, including a youth who suffocated in Vancouver in 2003 and two adults who suffocated in South Florida in 2006. In 1998, an Australian girl (her age is not known) from Victoria fell unconscious and temporarily after inhaling the entire contents of a party balloon. Inhaling helium directly from pressurized cylinders or even (pressure reduzing) balloon filling valves is extremely dangerous, as high flow rate and pressure can result in , fatally rupturing lung tissue.

Death caused by helium is rare. The first media-recorded case was that of a 15-year-old girl from Texas who died in 1998 from helium inhalation at a friend's party; the exact type of helium death is unidentified.

In the United States only two fatalities were reported between 2000 and 2004, including a man who died in North Carolina of barotrauma in 2002. A youth asphyxiated in Vancouver during 2003, and a 27-year-old man in Australia had an embolism after breathing from a cylinder in 2000. Since then two adults asphyxiated in South Florida in 2006, and there were cases in 2009 and 2010, one a Californian youth who was found with a bag over his head, attached to a helium tank, and another teenager in Northern Ireland died of asphyxiation. At Eagle Point, Oregon a teenage girl died in 2012 from barotrauma at a party. A girl from Michigan died from hypoxia later in the year. The Oxford Leader Newspaper, Sherman Publications, Inc., December 3, 2012.

On February 4, 2015 it was revealed that during the recording of their main TV show on January 28, a 12-year-old member (name withheld) of Japanese all-girl singing group 3B Junior suffered from , losing consciousness and falling in a as a result of air bubbles blocking the flow of blood to the brain, after inhaling huge quantities of helium as part of a game. The incident was not made public until a week later. The staff of held an emergency press conference to communicate that the member had been taken to the hospital and is showing signs of rehabilitation such as moving eyes and limbs, but her consciousness has not been sufficiently recovered as of yet. Police have launched an investigation due to a neglect of safety measures.

The safety issues for cryogenic helium are similar to those of ; its extremely low temperatures can result in , and the liquid-to-gas expansion ratio can cause explosions if no pressure-relief devices are installed. Containers of helium gas at 5 to 10 K should be handled as if they contain liquid helium due to the rapid and significant thermal expansion that occurs when helium gas at less than 10 K is warmed to .

At high pressures (more than about 20 atm or two ), a mixture of helium and oxygen () can lead to high-pressure nervous syndrome, a sort of reverse-anesthetic effect; adding a small amount of nitrogen to the mixture can alleviate the problem.

Additional images
File:Blausen 0476 HeliumAtom.png|3D schematic of a Helium atom


See also
  • Abiogenic petroleum origin
  • Helium-3 propulsion
  • Leidenfrost effect
  • Tracer-gas leak testing method


External links

More detail


Helium shortage

    ^ (1968). 9780442155988, Van Nostrand Reinhold.
    ^ (2023). 9780554805139, BiblioBazaar, LLC. .
    ^ (2023). 9781402069727, Springer. .
    ^ (2023). 9780198503415, Oxford University Press.
    ^ (1997). 9780824798345, CRC Press. .
    ^ (2023). 9780198570547, Oxford University Press. .
    ^ (1995). 9780262133081, MIT Press.
    ^ (2023). 9780309070386, The National Academies Press. .
    ^ (1998). 9780198558187, Oxford University Press.

Page 1 of 1
Page 1 of 1


Pages:  ..   .. 
Items:  .. 


General: Atom Feed Atom Feed  .. 
Help:  ..   .. 
Category:  ..   .. 
Media:  ..   .. 
Posts:  ..   ..   .. 


Page:  .. 
Summary:  .. 
1 Tags
10/10 Page Rank
3980 Page Refs
11s Time