Element Helium and its Chemistry

Helium is the first inert gas element and the second lightest gas known so far. Helium is the second most abundant gas after hydrogen. The properties, uses, and applications of this gas are discussed in this article


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. The second and next to Hydrogen is helium. Helium is the first noble gas. Noble gases are also called inert gases. Why they are called inert gases? These gases will not undergo chemical changes and will not participate in chemical reactions easily. Hence they are called inert gases. The last column of the periodic table is having these gases. Helium is the second lightest gas known and the first lightest inert gas known.

Helium will be produced by exposing some minerals to radioactive rays. Later on, Helium was detected in natural gas deposits. These natural gas deposits will have generally had up to10% helium. gas after extraction from natural gas is purified.

Helium is a gas at room temperature. Helium is not having any smell or colour. It is a monoatomic gas. As it is an inert gas, there are no compounds that are bearing helium. The name helium is derived from the Greek language from the word Helios which means Sun.


The important properties of helium are as follows-
  • Atomic number of helium is 2. What is the atomic number? Every element will have electrons, neutrons and protons in its atom. The electrons are negatively charged particles. The protons are positively charged particles and neutrons will not have any charge. Every atom will have an equal number of protons and electrons. The number of protons in an atom of that element is called the atomic number of that element. Helium is having 2 protons in its nucleus. So, the atomic number of that element is 2.

  • The atomic weight of helium is 4. What is atomic weight? Electrons and protons are charged particles. Electrons will not contribute anything to the weight of the atom. But protons and neutrons will have weight. So, the atomic weight of an element is equivalent to the number of protons and the number of neutrons. An atom will contain an equal number of protons. neutrons and electrons. That is why generally, the atomic weight will be double that of the atomic number.

  • It is having 2 electrons and the electronic configuration is 1S^2. The atom is having only one orbital and that orbital is completely filled with two electrons. As the outermost orbit is fully filled with electrons, this gas is not chemically reactive and hence inert. The other elements which are having partly filled orbitals try to donate or receive or share electrons with other atoms of the same element or another element and that will lead to various chemical reactions and lead to the formation of many new chemical compounds.

  • This is the element that is having the lowest boiling point. Helium can't be solidified at normal pressure. Only when we increase the pressure the gas can be solidified. If we take water in a glass and keep it in a refrigerator at 0 degrees centigrade we will observe that water will get solidified. Almost all gases can be solidified by reducing the temperature. But the same is not possible with helium. High pressure is also required to solidify the same. -268.928^o C is the boiling point of helium.

  • There are two liquid forms of Helium and they are known as Helium1 and Helium2. Helium 1 is a liquid and it will get converted into superfluid form when the temperature falls below -270^0 C. The temperature at which this normal helium liquid gets changed to superfluid form is known as Lambda point.

  • Isotopes:

    Helium is available in two important isotopes. What is an isotope? Isotopes are the atoms of the same element only. They will have the same number of electrons and protons. But they will have different numbers of neutrons. So, their atomic weights will vary. The two forms are 3^He and 4^He. 4^He is the abundantly available isotope and the other one is available in very traces only.

    Uses and applications:

    This gas is used as a protective gas in autogenous welding operations. When big tanks and vessels are being welded from inside the vessels are filled with helium to avoid ignitions and accidents. Because it is the lightest inert gas available, it is used for research in altitudes and mainly used in balloons that are used to know weather conditions by meteorological laboratories. Helium diffuses very fast and hence the same is used to detect the leakages in pipelines, vessels and other devices. Helium leak test is a very popular test to detect very minor leaks also in the defence and space industry. Helium is used as a career gas in many important defence and space applications. It is widely used in cryogenics, MRIs etc.


    Author: Umesh02 Nov 2021 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

    This is nice information about Helium gas and its usefulness. Helium being an inert gas has got very interesting applications and mainly it is used as a medium where the activities are not affected due to its presence. For example, it is an ideal atmosphere in which semiconductors and fibre optics are made. Another very interesting and important application is when the big containers or vessels are under welding from the inside then filling them with Helium gas helps in avoiding any chemical or explosive reaction of an adverse nature. It is found with the natural gas that is produced from the depths of the Earth and today the main source of Helium is in the natural gas fields in the USA. It is an inert gas but can create problems in human beings if absorbed and inhaled accidentally. In such cases it can create dizziness, dullness, headache, suffocation etc.

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