Helium is a colorless and odorless gas that is also classified as a noble gas. It has a lot of uses, and the most known of them all is its use in balloons. Some elements exist in gas, solid or liquid form, and in this case, helium is naturally a gas, though, in some situations, it may be liquefied. It comes second after hydrogen in the periodic table, and it is known to use the atomic symbol “He.” It has a boiling point of – 452 degrees Fahrenheit. Apart from being the second in the periodic table, it also follows second after hydrogen as the second most abundant element in the universe.
In the field of medicine, helium is mostly associated with breathing problems and observations. Conditions that mostly affect breathing, such as asthma and emphysema, can be treated with the help of helium. In addition, it is also used for MRI scans as a coolant for the MRI magnet. To treat breathing problems, helium is preferred since it helps the patients to breathe easily and for that is also helps treat other diseases that affect the lungs.
2. Arc welding
As an inert and less reactive gas, helium is being used to protect very hot metals from any kind of reaction and oxidations. It is, therefore, important to know that helium acts as a protective atmosphere, especially when welding. Welding prevention of explosions is very crucial, and that is why helium is most preferred in this process as it helps to prevent some chemicals from causing explosions. In addition, its property of high heat transfer makes it again essential to the welding process.
3. Filling party balloons
This is the most common and widely known use of helium, and it is essential in these balloons because it is light and less likely reactive. It is from this use that it spread and also gets used in weather balloons as well as airships.
In aviation, helium has been used to reduce the pressure in both air crafts as well as missiles. In addition, it is known for its unreactive nature, and for that, it prevents oxidation, especially in metals.
5. Coolant for nuclear reactors
Helium is used as a cooling medium not only in nuclear reactors but also in magnetic scanners as well as cools space instruments. Helium is also used as a heat transfer within the nuclear reactors, and that is simply because it has a very high specific heat as well as a higher thermal conductivity.
6. Cryogenic research
Basically, cryogenic refers to the behavior and production of materials at very low temperatures. Helium is used in this production because it has a very low molecular weight, and it can be cooled down to form a liquid at very low temperatures. Its property of less reactivity with other elements also plays a very crucial part in the cryogenic use.
7. Detecting gas leaks
Helium is a very small atom as well as it has low viscosity and a very high diffusion coefficient. All these mentioned properties show that helium cannot be contained easily, and therefore it is the best gas that can be used to detect any leakage in either high vacuum systems and furl system, among others.
8. Used in diving mixtures
Deep-sea divers use an artificial atmosphere made up of 20% oxygen and 80% helium to ensure they are safe underwater. Helium is essential to use in pressurized conditions such as those under deep seas.
9. Lifting gas
Helium is used as a lifting gas simply because it has the second-lowest atomic weight. Hydrogen is the first element with the least atomic weight. It is mostly used as a lifting gas in both airships and balloons. In addition, it is used as a lifting gas in weather balloons, blimps, zeppelins, and dirigibles, among others.
10. Optical fibers manufacture
During optical fiber manufacturing, a coolant is needed, and in this case, that’s where helium comes in. It is normally used because it has very high heat and thermal conductivity, and also it can easily get cooled under very low temperatures. Helium is also inert, and that still counts, plus nitrogen and hydrogen can be used as its substitutes.
11. Pressurizing and purging
Helium is known for its lowest melting and boiling point than any gas. Both the melting and boiling point can be achieved with temperatures that are close to zero, and it due to that property, it is used as a purging gas for both fuel tanks and other fuel delivery systems.
12. Atmospheric control
As an inert gas, helium is also known to be less reactive with other elements. This property makes it essential such that it can replace any other inert gas such as neon and can also be used for metallurgical processes, among other uses. It also has a low density, as well as high thermal conductivity, and those too contribute to its atmospheric control.
13. Used in cars or vehicles
In the car air conditioning systems, helium is used to ensure there are no leakages since it is not a very reactive element. The car airbags also use helium gas for their inflation simply because helium can diffuse fatter than any other unreactive gas.
14. Barcode scanners
The unreactive nature of helium has made it possible for its use in barcodes scanning, mostly in supermarkets’ checkouts. In addition, it is also used for lasers due to its unreactive nature even when exposed to high temperatures.
15. Gas chromatography
Gas chromatography involves the separation of mixtures, and helium is essential in this process since it acts as a carrier and purging gas. Helium is an inert gas and also pure, and that’s why it is easily used. Other gases that are used for this process include nitrogen and hydrogen; therefore, any can be substituted for one another.
In conclusion, helium has a lot of uses due to its inert, less reactive, high thermal conductivity, and high heat transfer properties. As discussed, some uses are similar to those of nitrogen and hydrogen, and that make them substitutes in some areas. These uses, as discussed above, include; breathing mixtures, heat transfer medium in nuclear reactors, fiber optics manufacturing, gas chromatography, leakage detection welding, and balloon lifting, among other uses.