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The Helium Story
1868 is the year that marked the beginning of the helium story. Independently of each other, a French astronomer, Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen, and an English astronomer, Sir Joseph Lockyer, simultaneously identified a previously unknown element in the Sun’s spectrum.
Lockyer proposed to name this new substance helium, after Helios, the Greek god of the Sun. However, it was not until 1895 that the existence of this new element could be proven, when Sir William Ramsey, a Scottish chemist, discovered helium in uranium minerals on Earth and later in the atmosphere.
On Earth, helium is formed from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring isotopes of uranium and thorium in the Earth’s crust. In 1903 helium was found in significantly high concentrations in certain natural gas deposits to enable large scale recovery of the helium. This method of recovery has remained the main source of helium since.
Helium is colorless, odorless, non-toxic, non-corrosive and non-combustible.
Helium has the lowest boiling point of any substance , 4.2 Kelvin or –269 °C and as a result, liquid helium is the coldest matter on Earth.
This is what makes it ideally suited to be used as cryogen in a number of cutting edge applications including superconductivity in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), particle physics and other cryogenic applications.
As a gas the special properties of helium are used in many industries and processes such as diving, lifting, leak testing, automotive industry, semiconductor manufacturing, cutting and welding, nanotechnology and for analytical purposes.
As a liquid, helium is supplied to the customers in special insulated ISO containers or dewars and as a gas in cylinders, multi cylinder packs (MCP’s) or in tube trailers.
Messer operates one of the world’s largest helium plants in Otis, Kansas and several other facilities around the world including Algeria, Qatar and Australia.
Our network of more than 50 helium transfill facilities, located in all major helium markets around the globe, provides the most reliable distribution network in the industry.
Important physical data:
- Symbol for helium: He
- Atomic number 2
- Molar Mass 4.0026 g/mol
- Boiling point (at 1.013 bar) 4.22 K (-268.93)
- Density at boilng point - liquid 125 kg/m3
- Density at boiling point - vapor 17kg/m3
- Density (1 bar, 15 oC) 0.167 kg/m3
- Heat of vaporization, 0.08 KJ/mol
- Thermal conductivity (1bar, 15 oC) 0.1482 W/m*K
- Relative density with respect to air (1bar, 15 oC) 0.138
- Critical temperatures 5.21 K (-267.94)
- Critical pressure 2.29 bar
- Critical density 69.7 kg/m3
- Ionization energy 24.587 eV
- Stable isotopes He-4 99 .999862%
- Stable isotopes He-3 0.000138%