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chemical element with the chemical symbol He and the atomic number of 2

Helium is a chemical element. It has the chemical symbol He, atomic number 2, and atomic weight of about 4.002602. There are 9 isotopes of helium, only two of which are stable. These are 3He and 4He. 4He is by far the most common isotope.

Helium,  2He
Helium discharge tube.jpg
General properties
Pronunciation/ˈhliəm/ (HEE-lee-əm)
Appearancecolorless gas, exhibiting a red-orange glow when placed in an electric field
Standard atomic weight (Ar, standard)4.002602(2)[1]
Helium in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Atomic number (Z)2
Groupgroup 18 (noble gases)
Periodperiod 1
Element category  noble gas
Electron configuration1s2
Electrons per shell
Physical properties
Phase at STPgas
Melting point0.95 K ​(−272.20 °C, ​−457.96 °F) (at 2.5 MPa)
Boiling point4.222 K ​(−268.928 °C, ​−452.070 °F)
Density (at STP)0.1786 g/L
when liquid (at m.p.)0.145 g/cm3
when liquid (at b.p.)0.125 g/cm3
Triple point2.177 K, ​5.043 kPa
Critical point5.1953 K, 0.22746 MPa
Heat of fusion0.0138 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization0.0829 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity20.78 J/(mol·K)[2]
Vapor pressure (defined by ITS-90)
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K)     1.23 1.67 2.48 4.21
Atomic properties
Oxidation states0
ElectronegativityPauling scale: no data
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 2372.3 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 5250.5 kJ/mol
Covalent radius28 pm
Van der Waals radius140 pm
Color lines in a spectral range
Spectral lines of helium
Other properties
Natural occurrenceprimordial
Crystal structurehexagonal close-packed (hcp)
Hexagonal close-packed crystal structure for helium
Speed of sound972 m/s
Thermal conductivity0.1513 W/(m·K)
Magnetic orderingdiamagnetic[3]
Magnetic susceptibility−1.88·10−6 cm3/mol (298 K)[4]
CAS Number7440-59-7
Namingafter Helios, Greek Titan of the Sun
DiscoveryPierre Janssen, Norman Lockyer (1868)
First isolationWilliam Ramsay, Per Teodor Cleve, Abraham Langlet (1895)
Main isotopes of helium
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
3He 0.0002% stable
4He 99.9998% stable
| references
Because it is very light, helium is the gas of choice to fill airships such as the Goodyear blimp

Helium is called a noble gas, because it does not regularly mix with other chemicals and form new compounds. It has the lowest boiling point of all the elements. It is the second most common element in the universe, after hydrogen, and has no color or smell. However, helium has a red-orange glow when placed in an electric field. Helium does not usually react with anything else. Astronomers detected the presence of helium in 1868, when its spectrum was identified in light from the Sun prior to its discovery on Earth. Based on this location, its name was derived from the Greek word for Sun, helios.

Helium is used to fill balloons and airships because it is lighter than air, and does not burn or react, meaning it is normally safe for using it in that way. It is also used in some kinds of light bulbs. People also breathe it in to make their voices sound higher than they normally do as a joke, but this is extremely dangerous as if they breathe in too much, it can kill them as they are not breathing normal air. Breathing too much helium can also cause long-term effects to vocal cords.

It can be created through the process of nuclear fusion in the sun. During this process, four Hydrogen atoms are fused together to form one helium atom.


Helium has become a rare gas. If it gets free into the air it leaves the planet. Unlike hydrogen, which reacts with oxygen to form water, helium is not reactive. It stays as a gas. For many years the USA kept a storage tank filled with helium which came naturally from the great plains area. The story of this supply is very complicated. At present, more helium is supplied by Qatar than by the USA.

Several research organisations have released statements on the scarcity and conservation of helium.[5][6] These organisations released policy recommendations as early as 1995 and as late as 2016 urging the United States government to store and conserve helium because of the natural limits to the helium supply and the unique nature of the element.[5][6] For researchers, helium is irreplaceable because it is essential for producing very low temperatures.[6]


  1. Meija, J.; Coplen, T. B.; Berglund, M.; Brand, W.A.; De Bièvre, P.; Gröning, M.; Holden, N.E.; Irrgeher, J. et al. (2016). "Atomic weights of the elements 2013 (IUPAC Technical Report)". Pure and Applied Chemistry 88 (3): 265-91. doi:10.1515/pac-2015-0305. 
  2. Shuen-Chen Hwang, Robert D. Lein, Daniel A. Morgan (2005). "Noble Gases". Kirk Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Wiley. pp. 343–383. doi:10.1002/0471238961.0701190508230114.a01.
  3. Magnetic susceptibility of the elements and inorganic compounds, in Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 81st edition, CRC press.
  4. Weast, Robert (1984). CRC, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton, Florida: Chemical Rubber Company Publishing. pp. E110. ISBN 0-8493-0464-4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 American Physical Society (1995). “National Policy”.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Epple, Dennis (1982). "The Helium Storage Controversy: Modeling Natural Resource Supply: The complex issue of helium storage provides a case study of the difficult decisions involved in using natural resources". American Scientist.