Why the World Will Run Out of Helium

Posted by Ethan Siegel on December 12, 2012

“I have this one little saying, when things get too heavy just call me helium, the lightest known gas to man.” -Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix, as I told you once before, was almost right. We know of helium, conventionally, as the lighter-than-air gas that we fill balloons, blimps and zeppelins with in order to quickly and easily “defy gravity” here on Earth.

At least defying gravity is what it appears to do. But what’s really going on is that helium is simply a very low-density gas. Our atmosphere, a mix of mostly Nitrogen (N2) and Oxygen (O2) gases, has an average molecular weight of 29. With a molecular weight of four, Helium is bested only by pure Hydrogen (H2) gas (with a molecular weight of 2) in the low-density department.

Read more: Why the World Will Run Out of Helium – Starts With A Bang.

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