Thursday, January 26, 2012

Profiles of the periodic table: Helium

Helium. The funny gas. Via Wikimedia Commons,
Creative Commons License.
By Carcharodontosaurus, age 10, DXS Jr Contributor

Hello there, random person who’s interested in science! This series is about the different elements in the periodic table and what they can be used for. First, let’s start with helium. The symbol for helium is He. Here is a helium joke: “I always thought the funniest element was helium. He He He.”

 A helium atom has two protons in its center and two electrons orbiting it. It also has two noncharged particles, or neutrons. The two electrons are the maximum that the first electron orbital of an atom can hold, so helium is chemically stable and doesn’t react with other atoms. Another joke about helium: Two atoms of helium walk into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve your kind here.” The heliums don’t react. Ha!

Helium is never found in a solid form. It only can be a gas or a liquid. Helium is a liquid from [Ed. correction] -273* C to around -269* C. It can be found in incredible abundance on gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn, and all stars, including our Sun.

A special kind of helium, called Helium-3, is strangely lacking a neutron but could, in theory, be a never-ending power-source. Go to Starts With a Bang to find out more about helium.

Liquid helium that is supercooled is known as a “superfluid” because liquid helium at a very low temperature (below 2 K, or Kelvin) can do a lot of strange things like seep through microscopic cracks, as shown in the video below [Chemistry editor’s note: The video also suggests that it could make a fountain that could, in the right conditions, go on forever, but there are no right conditions for that].    


  1. really enjoyed your post - thought you might like this video on a cheeky form of helium doing things we wouldn't normally expect it to do .. one to catch your teacher out with :)

  2. Awesome report - thanks! I bet my son will love this. :-)

  3. Nice blog!! The video was cool ,too. I can't wait for the next element! My favorite element is manganese(25). I don't really know why, I just like it. Maybe I will write a post about it. Greetings, from FossilBoy in Illinois (Cotesia1's son).

  4. @Declan Thanks for the great video link.

    @Anonymous We are glad to hear it!

    @FossilBoy Yes! Please do.