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colorless gas, exhibiting a red-orange glow when placed in a high-voltage electric field

Spectral lines of helium
General properties
Name, symbol, number helium, He, 2
Pronunciation /ˈhliəm/ HEE-lee-əm
Element category noble gases
Group, period, block 181, s
Standard atomic weight 4.002602(2)g/mol
Electron configuration 1s2
Electrons per shell 2 (Image)
Physical properties
Phase gas
Density (0 °C, 101.325 kPa)
0.1786 g/L
Liquid density at m.p. 0.145 g/cm3
Liquid density at b.p. 0.125 g/cm3
Melting point (at 2.5 MPa) 0.95 K, −272.20 °C, −457.96 °F
Boiling point 4.22 K, −268.93 °C, −452.07 °F
Critical point 5.19 K, 0.227 MPa
Heat of fusion 0.0138 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization 0.0829 kJ/mol
Specific heat capacity (25 °C) 5R/2 = 20.786 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure (defined by ITS-90)
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K)     1.23 1.67 2.48 4.21
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 0
Electronegativity no data (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies 1st: 2372.3 kJ/mol
2nd: 5250.5 kJ/mol
Covalent radius 28 pm
Van der Waals radius 140 pm
Crystal structure hexagonal close-packed
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic[1]
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 0.1513 W/(m·K)
Speed of sound 972 m/s
CAS registry number 7440-59-7
Most stable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of helium
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
3He 0.000137%* 3He is stable with 1 neutron
4He 99.999863%* 4He is stable with 2 neutrons
*Atmospheric value, abundance may differ elsewhere.
Because it is very light, helium is the gas of choice to fill airships such as the Goodyear blimp

Helium is a chemical element. It has the chemical symbol He, atomic number 2, and atomic weight of about 4.002602. There are 9 isotopes of helium, only two of which are stable. These are 3He and 4He. 4He is by far the most common isotope.

Helium is called a noble gas, because it does not regularly mix with other chemicals and form new compounds. It has the lowest boiling point of all the elements. It is the second most common element in the universe, after hydrogen, and has no color or smell. However, Helium has a blue-ish, neon color when being burnt with fire. Helium does not usually react with anything else. Astronomers discovered helium in 1868. They found that it was in the Sun before it was found on Earth. Because of where it was found, its name comes from the Greek word for Sun, helios.

Helium is used to fill balloons and airships because it is lighter than air, and does not burn or react, meaning it is normally safe for using it in that way. It is also used in some kinds of light bulbs. People also breathe it in to make their voices sound higher than they normally do as a joke, but this is extremely dangerous as if they breathe in too much, it can kill them as they are not breathing normal air. Breathing too much helium can also cause long-term effects to vocal cords.

It can be created through the process of nuclear fusion in the sun we are currently trying to harness nuclear fusion as a form of power but this is still at an early stage because the sun can quantum tunnel enough because of its huge size). During this process, four Hydrogen atoms are fused together to form one Helium atom.

References[change | change source]

  1. Magnetic susceptibility of the elements and inorganic compounds, in Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 81st edition, CRC press.