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Why is helium important?

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Quick Answer

Helium is important because it is widely used for its cooling properties, and it's particularly useful for manufacturing computer components. Helium is inert which prevents it from causing chemical reactions. It is also rare on Earth but common in the universe.

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Why is helium important?
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Full Answer

While helium is perhaps best known for use in balloons, it is widely used in industrial fields. Advanced computer components often need to be cooled while they are being manufactured, and helium is often used for this purpose. It is also used by divers to prevent nitrogen-related health problems. Welders use helium as well.

Helium is common in the universe. About 90 percent of the universe's mass is composed of hydrogen; most of the remaining 10 percent is helium. This is because stars fuse two hydrogen atoms together to make helium, and much of this helium is released when stars die. The ratio of helium is expected to rise in the future.

On Earth, however, helium is somewhat rare, and helium prices have been rising for decades. Since helium is so light, it rises through the atmosphere, and it is not a component of other molecules since it is inert. Most helium comes from radioactive decay underground, and it is generally collected during oil-drilling operations.

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