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Having previously discussed how interesting nitrogen and propane are, we are now turning our attention to helium. We stock this amazing gas here at Adams Gas, as it has a wide range of applications, from more unusual to everyday ones. It’s also important to learn all you can about this gas, so that you can use it to its full potential!

Everyone knows that balloons filled with helium can float before the element is lighter than air, but there are so many other facts that we find interesting:

The Properties of Helium Gas

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe and has never been observed bonding with another element in a compound. Helium can condense into liquid when temperatures near absolute zero and, at above 114,000 atmospheres of pressure, this gas solidifies.

This chemical element has the symbol He and the atomic number 2. It is considered an inert gas, and it’s also colourless, tasteless, odourless and non-toxic. The helium that exists on earth is resupplied from the decay of radioactive elements (like uranium and thorium) on the planet and from cosmic rays. Yearly, more than 30,000 metric tonnes of helium is produced.

Helium was Discovered by Astronomers

This gas was discovered after a total solar eclipse in India by French and English astronomers Pierre Janssen and Normal Lockyer. This discovery occurred in August of 1868, after spectral analysis of the sunlight following the eclipse. It revealed a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometres. Today we know that helium makes up around 45% of the mass of the sun.

Terrestrial helium, on the other hand, was only discovered in 1895 by Scottish chemist Sir William Ramsay. He isolated the element by separating nitrogen and oxygen from the gas released by sulfuric acid – he noticed a bright yellow line that looked like the one observed a few years before in India.

Helium is Not Just for Balloons

It might be the first thing that comes to mind, but helium is not just used to fill up floating balloons. This element can be used in many different industries, such as medical. For example, the ring-shaped coils in hospital MRI scanners need to be cooled down in order to generate intense magnetic fields; this is done with liquid helium, which cools them down to -263oC.

This gas is also used to cool down the electromagnets used in the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Helium Can Make You Float Away…

…but only with many, many balloons! Helium’s lifting force is about 1 gram per litre. 20 litres of helium should be able to lift an object that weighs 20 grams, which means that, if you weight 65kg, you’d need 6,500 balloons filled with this gas to lift off the ground!

Take a look at our helium canisters, which come in different sizes, and choose the one that suits you best. If you have any questions, just get in touch and a friendly member of our team will discuss them with you!