You are on page 1of 3


Helium is a chemical element with symbol He and atomic number 2. It is a colorless,

odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert,monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in
the periodic table. Its boiling and melting points are the lowest among the elementsand it
exists only as a gas except in extreme conditions.

Helium is the second lightest element and is the second most abundant element in
the observable universe, being present at about 24% of the total elemental mass, which
is more than 12 times the mass of all the heavier elements combined. Its abundance is
similar to this figure in the Sun and in Jupiter. This is due to the very high nuclear binding
energy (per nucleon) of helium-4 with respect to the next three elements after helium.
This helium-4 binding energy also accounts for why it is a product of both nuclear fusion
and radioactive decay. Most helium in the universe is helium-4, and is believed to have
been formed during the Big Bang. Large amounts of new helium are being created
by nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars.

Helium is named for the Greek God of the Sun, Helios. It was first detected as an
unknown yellow spectral line signature in sunlight during a solar eclipse in 1868 by
French astronomer Jules Janssen. Janssen is jointly credited with detecting the element
along withNorman Lockyer. Jannsen observed during the solar eclipse of 1868 while
Lockyer observed from Britain. Lockyer was the first to propose that the line was due to a
new element, which he named. The formal discovery of the element was made in 1895
by two Swedish chemists, Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet, who found helium
emanating from the uranium ore cleveite. In 1903, large reserves of helium were found
in natural gas fields in parts of the United States, which is by far the largest supplier of
the gas today.

Helium is used in cryogenics (its largest single use, absorbing about a quarter of
production), particularly in the cooling ofsuperconducting magnets, with the main
commercial application being in MRI scanners. Helium's other industrial usesas a
pressurizing and purge gas, as a protective atmosphere for arc welding and in processes

such as growing crystals to make silicon wafersaccount for half of the gas produced. A
well-known but minor use is as a lifting gas in balloons and airships.[2] As with any gas
with differing density from air, inhaling a small volume of helium temporarily changes the
timbre and quality of the human voice. In scientific research, the behavior of the two fluid
phases of helium-4 (helium I and helium II), is important to researchers studyingquantum
mechanics (in particular the property of superfluidity) and to those looking at the
phenomena, such as superconductivity, that temperatures near absolute zero produce
in matter.

On Earth it is relatively rare0.00052% by volume in the atmosphere. Most

terrestrial helium present today is created by the naturalradioactive decay of heavy
radioactive elements (thorium and uranium, although there are other examples), as
the alpha particlesemitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei.
This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations up to 7% by volume,
from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process
called fractional distillation.


Hydrogen is a chemical element with chemical symbol H and atomic number 1. With
an atomic weight of 1.00794 u (u forhydrogen-1), hydrogen is the lightest element and its
monatomic form (H1) is the most abundant chemical substance, constituting roughly 75%
of the Universe's baryonic mass.[7][note 1] Non-remnant stars are mainly composed of
hydrogen in its plasma state.

At standard
a colorless, odorless, tasteless,
non-toxic, nonmetallic,
highly combustiblediatomic gas with the molecular formula H2. Most of the hydrogen on
Earth is in molecules such as water and organic compoundsbecause hydrogen readily
forms covalent compounds with most non-metallic elements.

Hydrogen plays a particularly important role in acidbase chemistry with many

reactions exchanging protons between soluble molecules. In ionic compounds, it can
take a negative charge (an anion known as a hydride and written as H), or as a
positively charged species H+. The latter cation is written as though composed of a bare
proton, but in reality, hydrogen cations in ionic compounds always occur as more
complex species.
The most common isotope of hydrogen is protium (name rarely used, symbol 1H) with a
single proton and no neutrons. As the simplest atom known, the hydrogen atom has been
of theoretical use. For example, as the only neutral atom with an analytic solution to
the Schrdinger equation, the study of the energetics and bonding of the hydrogen atom
played a key role in the development of quantum mechanics.

Hydrogen gas was first artificially produced in the early 16th century, via the
mixing of metals with acids. In 176681, Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that
hydrogen gas was a discrete substance, [8] and that it produces water when burned, a
property which later gave it its name: in Greek, hydrogen means "water-former".

Industrial production is mainly from the steam reforming of natural gas, and less
often from more energy-intensive hydrogen production methods like the electrolysis of
water.[9] Most hydrogen is employed near its production site, with the two largest uses
being fossil fuel processing (e.g., hydrocracking) and ammonia production, mostly for the
fertilizer market. Hydrogen is a concern in metallurgy as it can embrittle many metals,
complicating the design of pipelines and storage tanks. [11]