|The element helium (He) was discovered 1868 when P.J.C. Janssen and N. Lockyer detected a new line in the solar spectrum during the solar eclipse. Lockyer and E. Frankland suggested the name helium (Gr. Helios, the sun) for the new element. In 1895, helium was discovered in the uranium mineral cleveite and in 1907 it was found out that alpha particles are helium nuclei.|
Properties: Helium belongs to the noble gases, is colorless, odorless, and occurs in two naturally isotopes, helium 3 and helium 4. As an inert gas, helium does not react chemically largely and don't burns. Helium 4 makes up over 99% of naturally occurring helium atoms. Helium is extracted from natural gas e.g. present in various radioactive minerals as a decay product. Deposits and sources are in the USA, Poland, the USSR, and a few in India. The rare deposits and increased consumption lead to a shortage of this gas.
K. Onnes worked for many years to liquefy helium, which persisted as a gas to the lowest temperature. Helium does not freeze at atmospheric pressure.
The density of helium vapor at his boiling point of 4.2 Kelvin is very high, with the vapor expanding greatly when heated to room temperature.
Nb, Tc, Pb, La, V, and Ta are superconductors at liquid helium temperature. Liquid helium is commonly used as a cryogen for superconducting magnets. A rapid evaporation of the cryogen is named Quench. See also Quenching.
MRI Safety Guidance
Cryogenic liquids and their associated cold vapors can produce effects on the skin similar to a thermal burn and can cause frostbite. Prolonged breathing of extremely cold gases may damage the lungs and in absence of enough air or oxygen, asphyxiation and death can occur. Unprotected skin can stick to very cold metal (e.g. cooled by liquid helium) and then tear when pulled away.
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