Helium is a colourless, tasteless, odourless inert gas. It is the first element in the noble gas group. It is the second lightest and second most abundant element with hydrogen being the lightest and first most abundant element. It makes up about 24% of the mass of the universe. It is a non-flammable gas, i.e., it does not catch fire. The most familiar use of helium is to fill party balloons.
Balloons Filled with Helium
How is Helium Made?
Helium is found in space in abundance. It is produced as a product of the fusion reaction inside stars such as the Sun. But helium also occurs naturally on Earth but is made from a different process. The radioactive decay of uranium and thorium causes the formation of helium. It is extremely unstable. This formation takes place deep underground on the Earth's surface. It is mined with natural gas and later extracted and manufactured.
Formation of Helium
Why is Helium Used in Balloons?
Helium gas is entirely harmless to humans and nature. It is non-toxic and non-explosive. It is odourless and tasteless. Hydrogen is lighter than helium but it is flammable and will burn in the presence of air. Helium is non-combustible, which means it won't burn in the presence of air. It is safe to use helium to fill balloons.
Why Do Helium Balloons Float in the Air?
If you let go of a balloon filled with helium, it rises until it reaches the height of just under 33000 ft (10 kilometres). Helium is lighter than other gases in the atmosphere except hydrogen. When it is filled with balloons, the gas inside the balloon is lighter than the air outside. When one gas is lighter than the other, it tends to float up on top of it. This is why helium balloons float in the air. But once it reaches 33000 ft, it will burst, since the balloon won't be able to withstand the pressure of the gas inside it.
Helium Balloons Can Reach 33000 Ft in the Sky
How to Make Helium at Home?
Helium is obtained from a very long process of mining, extraction, purification, separation, and distribution. Due to its chemical composition, helium cannot be prepared at home.
Learning by Doing
Choose the Correct Answer.
Helium is the lightest gas present.
Which of the following is a characteristic of helium?
It has an odour.
It is non-combustible.
It has taste.
None of the above.
Where is helium found on Earth?
Ans: Helium is found deep underground. It is manufactured as the byproduct of natural gas.
Once released in the sky, how far can a helium balloon go?
Ans: A helium balloon can reach up to the height of 33000 ft in the atmosphere.
Balloons filled with helium can stay floating in the air from a day up to a week. It isn't toxic. It is safe to give helium balloons to children. But studies show that helium is rapidly diminishing because once released into the atmosphere, it escapes into space.