Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. It’s colorless, odorless, and lighter than air. It’s produced from natural gas and has the lowest boiling point and melting point out of any element on the periodic table. Even at incredibly low temperatures, it can remain liquid, solidifying only under extreme pressure. Helium is also useful for its low density, inertness, low solubility, and thermal conductivity. Technologies like superconducting materials make great use of helium.
Most helium in the universe is in the stars. What little helium there is on the Earth can be found inside natural gas deposits and radioactive decay. With only 14 helium refineries worldwide, our helium supply is rapidly shrinking. Regardless, our dependence on helium is only increasing. Here are a few popular commercial uses of helium around the world: