HeliumIn this universe, Helium is second, only to Hydrogen in abundance (Helium - He). Its name originated name from the Greek word hêlios or sun. In the year 1868, Pierre Janssen was studying the solar spectrum, during an eclipse of the sun; while doing so he saw an additional yellow line and in this manner Helium was discovered. Sir Norman Lockyer, an English astronomer, later named this unknown yellow line as Helium, after discovering that a new element on the sun was causing this yellow line. This led to the search for this new element, but no one knew where to look for it (Calvert).
This search ended in 1895, after Helium was found in the mineral clevite that contained uranium, independently by Ramsay, a Scottish chemist; and the Swedish chemists Cleve and Langlet (It's Elemental). Helium consists of two protons and two neutrons in the nucleus, surrounded by two electrons. This Helium nucleus, which is also known as the alpha particle, is very stable. Helium is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-toxic monatomic gas. It is classified under the noble gas series in the periodic table, and is lighter than air.
It has the lowest melting and boiling point amongst the elements (Element Helium - He). Helium is of great use in the study of superconductivity. The high temperature and pressure in the stars, converts hydrogen nuclei to Helium, this process is known as nuclear fusion. Helium is found very rarely on Earth, and most of the terrestrial helium is created by the radioactive decay of the heavy elements. A small quantity of helium is to be found in natural gas.
The process of fractional distillation is employed to commercially extract such Helium. The greatest source of Helium is the natural gas fields of the United States. It is also found in the gas reserves of a few other countries. Helium is an inert gas that does not easily combine with the other elements. Some attempts are being made to produce helium diflouride or HeF2 (It's Elemental). In comparison to Hydrogen, which constitutes about ninety percent of the atoms in the universe, Helium constitutes about nine percent. Moreover, Helium accounts for a quarter of the mass of the universe, whereas Hydrogen constitutes seventy – three percent of the mass of the universe.
The remaining mass of the universe is composed of the heavier elements (Helium). Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have a number of natural gas deposits, from which the major portion of the commercially extracted Helium is procured. Some of the countries where Helium is available are the natural gas fields of Russia, Canada and Algeria (McGuire). Due to the non combustibility of Helium, it is used to inflate airships, scientific balloons and party balloons.
Helium is also used to pressurize rockets to make their structure rigid before takeoff. Rocket engines consume liquefied hydrogen; and Helium, whose boiling point is lower than that of hydrogen, is employed for forcing such fuel into the engines of these rocket ships. Helium remains chemically inert and is non – radioactive. Hence, it is used in the nuclear reactors to transfer heat (Helium).