We all know what helium is, don’t we? It’s the stuff they put in children’s balloons to get them
to float. It’s used in airships too, because hydrogen was too flammable. I’m sure it has 101 other
uses as well. My question is… where do they get it???
Helium is the second lightest element (only hydrogen is lighter), which is why it floats upwards –
it is lighter than air. This means that we can’t get helium from the air (like we do with oxygen and
nitrogen) because it’s all up hundreds of miles above us!
Helium, is what we call “inert”. This means that it doesn’t react with other elements to make
compounds. One source of hydrogen is water – because water is H2O. Helium,
being inert, can’t be extracted from any compunds.
So where do we get it?
The answer was given to me by my friend Sunil:
Helium is present in the gaseous emissions from natural springs in the USA
and it is also present (at 1% level) in natural gas in the USA.
Helium is obtained from the liquefaction of natural gas.
Helium is also obtained from monazite sands by heating to 1000 degC.