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Properties of Helium Atom with Facts and Applications

Helium atom (with 2 protons and 2 neutrons) is a gaseous element of the periodic table with symbol “He”, atomic number 2 and 4 g/mole atomic weight. Properties of helium atom includes that It is the second lightest element in periodic table and lies in the zone of noble gases (having full electronic shell). It is a colorless, tasteless, non-toxic, less reactive and odorless gas which is less soluble in water as compared to other gases. Helium vapors have very low density and viscosity however it can be liquefied with the least condensation temperature. Helium is used to fill airships, blimps and balloons as it is lighter in weight. Helium is relatively safe to be used as it doesn’t burn or reacts with chemicals. Helium gas has ability to lift objects with force of 1 g/liter. Helium is lighter than air. Helium makes 45% of the mass of sun where it is produced as the result of fusion from hydrogen atoms. The helium atom with 2 proton and 2 neutron is named as helium-4 but it also has another composition with 2 protons and 1 neutron known as helium-3, which is used as an ideal fuel for fusion power generation. On earth, there is almost negligible amount of helium-3 but on moon it is found in abundance, where helium-3 (from solar winds) is raining on to lunar surface from billions of years.

Properties of helium

Helium is an element which is found second most abundant in universe, after hydrogen. It is formed in earth by the radioactive decay of heavier elements. Maximum part of this helium enters the atmosphere as it migrates towards surface. Liquid helium boils at 4.2 K and does not freeze at atmospheric pressure. The pressure greater than 20 times atmospheric pressure can convert helium to solid form.Interesting Facts about Helium Atom with its ApplicationsHelium filled balloons fall to ground after few days because helium leaks out from balloon slowly as it is a part of properties of helium.

Helium atom sources

Major part of helium on earth comes from the radiological sources as elements like uranium and thorium decay into thorium and radium, respectively, alpha particles. These alpha particles take electrons from environment and convert to stable helium atoms. Helium is also produced as a side product of natural gas processing. Helium may also be produced by liquefying air and separating the gases in the component. The processing costs for this process are high, and the volume of helium in air is very small. Although this method is often used for the production of other gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen, helium is rarely produced.

Applications

Due to its versatile properties like low boiling point, low density, low solubility and high thermal conductivity, it is being used in various fields.

  • Helium gas is used to fill balloons, this application is helpful in meteorological balloons and altitude research.
  • It is used in autogenous welding (in which filler material are supplied by melting base material) as an inert gas protection source.
  • It is the only gas which is capable to reach the temperature up to 15 K. this application is useful in developing superconducting state (in which resistance of substance is zero).
  • It is used as pressurizing gas in liquid propellants for rockets.
  • It is used in helium oxygen mixtures for divers.
  • In nuclear reactors, as working fluid
  • Liquid helium is used in cryogenics.
  • Liquid helium is used to cool ring shaped magnetic coils in MRI scanners to the temperatures about -263 degree Celsius, which causes intense magnetic fields.

Health effects

A human body can absorb it by breathing which can cause dizziness, dullness, headache, suffocation. It causes suffocation by lowering the oxygen content in a confined area. Natural helium is non-toxic as it is a part of human body (blood) too. If you inhale helium from some source like helium balloon the due to less density, it causes a change in your sound, by making it much higher, however if you breathe helium, it can be much dangerous. You can sound like a cartoon if you inhale helium.

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