10 Jun 2019

Helium - rare on earth but universally abundant

From Elemental, 8:00 am on 10 June 2019

Did you know that helium is so light, that all the gas from your helium balloons escapes gravity and ends up in space?

This is partly why it is rare on earth, but common in space, where it makes up 23 percent of the mass of observed matter in the universe.

And while a helium-infused squeaky voice can be the life and soul of the party, in most other respects it is an unremarkable element.

Odour? None.

Colour? None.

Taste? None.

Toxic? No.

Helium is possibly the most unreactive element on the periodic table – it doesn’t even react with fluorine, the highly reactive Teflon element, says our resident expert Professor Allan Blackman from AUT.

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Photo: RNZ

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The Elemental podcast is celebrating 150 years since the periodic table was first published by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.

Find out more about events during the United Nation’s International Year of the Periodic Table.

Nights with Bryan Crump is also celebrating the chemical elements during their Friday night Sonic Tonic and Element of the Week.

Professor Allan Blackman is at Auckland University of Technology.