Helium is one of the most common elements in the universe. It was considered to be a noble gas. It is non-toxic, inert, colorless gas. Helium got its name for the Greek god of the Sun – Helios. This name couldn’t be more appropriate because most stars in the universe are powered by nuclear fusion that coverts Hydrogen to Helium. The sun contains 91.2% of Hydrogen, 8.7% of Helium, 0.078% of Oxygen and 0.043% of Carbon.
Here on Earth, 0.00052% of Helium is concentrated in the atmosphere. Most of it comes from the beneath the ground. Therefore, natural gas extraction can provide almost 7% of the noble gas. The biggest extractor is USA. They make almost 78% of world’s production.
There are some predictions that after 20-25 years humanity will run out of helium. This will make it very expensive because many brunches of the industry are “addicted” to this gas. With no helium beneath the Earth, scientist will develop new methods to extract it from the air. Thus, it can become 10 000 times more expensive.
In United States prices for helium had been frozen until this year. Later there will be some minor changes and according to the law they will be frozen for some time again. The professor of Physics at Cornell University, Nobel Prize winner – Robert C. Richardson says that according to his calculations, today the real cost for a balloon filled with helium is suppose to be around 100 U.S. dollars while market prices as low as 0.03$ per each.
People know helium for its properties to change people’s voices. This trick is commonly used at the birthday’s party and other events where people are looking for the ways to be amused. The temporary voice change happens because helium increases frequencies of the vocal tract. As the result person, who breathed in the gas from the party balloon sounds as the characters from Disney cartoons Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers (1989–1990) or Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007). This is the same effect that you can hear when you listen speed up voice record. Many people find it amusing.
The helium without the doubts is one of the most important elements on the Earth and even more important in the universe. The industrial production as well as common life would be difficult without it. So, next time you see He symbol in Mendeleev’s periodic table of the elements think about it.