Helium is one of the many bottled gases we sell here at London Gases. Helium isn’t particularly useful as a fuel, because it’s non-flammable. However, it is wonderful for filling balloons and making them float weightlessly through the air in a rather charming manner.
Helium balloons have been a staple of children’s parties and fairgrounds ever since the gas became widely available. In fact, helium is the only gas that can be used safely and effectively for this purpose. But what exactly is helium and what makes it so unique? Well, helium is more fascinating and surprising than you may think.
The science of helium
As you are undoubtedly aware, helium is one of the elements on the periodic table. What you may not realise is that it’s one of the most common elements in the universe. Helium is usually formed when hydrogen is subjected to immense pressure and heat in the hearts of stars, such as our sun. In fact, scientists discovered that the element was present in the sun in 1868, long before any was discovered on Earth. Even the name ‘helium’ comes from the Greek root-word ‘helio’, which is used to describe things connected with the sun.
Getting down-to-earth with helium
Despite it’s abundance in the wider universe, helium is actually very rare here on Earth. Helium accounts for around 25% of all matter in the universe as a whole, but only a negligible percentage of the matter on Earth. Luckily, a little helium goes a long way, and more is being formed slowly but steadily by natural processes on our own planet. While most helium is created in stars, some is created by the radioactive decay of heavy elements found deep in the Earth. Consequently, our supply of the element is gradually being replenished.
How helium is used
Helium isn’t just for balloons. Most of the helium we sell here at London Gases will be used to levitate balloons, but the element is also used in the manufacturing of refrigerators and cooling devices that are deceptively vital for our way of life. Until recently, scientists believed that we were running out of helium, so discovering that it’s still being formed is a relief. Now we just have to figure out how to access it!
Helium is one of the most fascinating elements in our universe, and one of the most fun gases to have at a party. The next time you’re inflating a balloon with helium, just think of how it was either formed deep in the Earth by atomic-level radioactive processes or in the very heart of a blazing star. Of course, this should fill you with cosmic wonder but ,more importantly, it will also make the low prices we charge for the gas seem even more impressive.