2He Helium

Year Discovered

1868 (First isolated in 1895)

Discovered By

Norman Lockyer and Edward Frankland of England

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.

Description

Named from the Greek word meaning “Sun”, helium was actually discovered in the Sun before it was discovered on Earth. Helium is a very light, colorless, odorless gas. It is the least reactive of all elements and is not known to chemically react with any other substance. Helium is the only element that cannot be frozen and made solid at very cold temperatures. Helium replaces nitrogen in underwater breathing gear and in some medical applications. It is used in many lighter-than-air applications (weather balloons, dirigibles, etc.) as well as a coolant in nuclear reactors. Helium often is used where an inert atmosphere is necessary, such as welding operations, and liquid helium is used in many very low temperature applications.

Biological Benefits

Helium has no known biological use. However, the helium atom’s small size makes it useful as a breathing mixture for people with lung problems.

Role in Life Processes

NONE (noble gas)

Sources

Natural gas deposits may contain up to 7% He, especially those found in Texas, Russia, Poland and Canada. There are no helium bearing minerals.