In the United States, helium can be used for many different things. It can be used for advertising purposes, recreation, purge systems, and low-temperature cooling systems.
Objects that float in the air, such as balloons, blimps, and other things of that nature, are filled with helium. Why? Because hydrogen is usually more dangerous to use and helium is not flammable. Helium can be used without having to worry about the effects that hydrogen has. Also, these floating objects are able to float because helium is lighter than air.
Another use for helium is in a purge system. In a purge system, an inert gas is used to make all gas into a container without reacting with that gas. If it did react, it would not be acceptable to use to pressurize the system. Helium is a perfect candidate for this job. It is inert and does not react with any gas so it can get the job done.
Helium is able to cool anything even at the lowest temperatures. It can cool anything at a temperature as low as -270 degrees. This temperature is considered liquid temperature.
Helium can also help in the welding process. Helium began to help this process during World War II, as it was already being used for lighter-than-air objects. Arc welding needed different elements in order to work. So people began using hydrogen, argon, and helium to prevent the welding from becoming brittle. It's an inert gas shield for the welding.
Divers use the combination of oxygen and helium in order to breathe under the pressure of water. It's an artificial atmosphere and different ratios are used for different kinds of pressure and depths.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses liquid helium as the medical field becomes more and more adapted to the equipment and invents new uses for it. It has done a lot of good for the medical profession. It has eliminated the need for surgery in order to diagnose a patient accurately.
If helium is breathed, the voice of the person that breathed it would be very high-pitched. It is not harmless, although if the person only breathes in helium for an extended amount of time, the person would pass out. It would be just like if the person would hold their breath, they would pass out without getting oxygen into their body.
Other uses of helium include:
- being a protective shield while growing silicon and germanium crystals.
- supersonic wind tunnels
- nuclear reactors
- a protective shield for titanium and zirconium fabrication.
- pressurizing liquid fuel rockets.