10 Interesting Facts About the Elements

by Shivam Khandelwal2 years ago

6 The only element on the periodic table that was not first discovered on Earth is helium. Its name comes from the Greek god of the Sun, Helios, because it was found when analyzing the Sun’s spectrum. 

Image Credit: Alchemist-hp/wikipedia.org

Helium is an inert gas that is colorless, odorless, and the second-most abundant element in the universe.

French astronomer Pierre Janssen from India was observing the Sun’s atmosphere, the chromosphere, during a total eclipse on 18 August 1868. He reported observing a strange, yellow line but failed to source it. A few months later, a British astronomer, Sir Norman Lockyer, dived deep into the matter and after observation concluded that the line was the outline of an unknown element. He named it “helium” after the Greek god of the Sun. The element’s presence on Earth and atomic weight were only found in 1882 by Swedish chemists. 

Even if it is the second-most abundant element in the universe, it constitutes only 0.0005% of the earth’s atmosphere. Qatar is the second country that produces helium, second only to the US that produces 75% of the total helium present on Earth. 

Because of its superfluid ability, helium is pretty useful for scientists to go beyond the limits of their knowledge about physics and chemistry. (Source)


7 When cooled to a few degrees below its boiling point, helium suddenly becomes a superfluid and starts doing things that other fluids can’t. It can dribble through molecule-sized cracks, climb up and over the sides of a dish, and remain motionless when its container is spun due to its frictionless flow.

helium fluid
Image Credit: AlfredLeitner/Wikimedia.org

The first signs of helium’s odd characteristics were observed in 1911. The scientists who discovered that helium could be transformed into a superfluid received a Noble Prize for his work in 1996. However, it was just an introduction to the surprises about helium. Recent findings have revealed more complexities in this remarkable element. 

When the isotope helium-3 is cooled to 3.2° above absolute zero, it changes its state from gaseous to liquid. When it is cooled further, about a thousandth of a degree above zero, it becomes a superfluid that flows without encountering any resistance from its surroundings. 

It was observed that when it is put flowing into a circular channel, it will just keep flowing around the circle forever without being affected by friction. Scientists explain that this behavior is because the atoms of helium are very light and loosely drawn to each other. (1, 2)


8 Technetium was the first element to be produced artificially. It was made in 1937 by Perrier and Segre in Italy. Its name originates from the Greek word “technetos” meaning “artificially.” It does exist organically but only in small concentrations and is primarily obtained artificially. 

Image Credit: bnl.gov ,bnl.gov

Although an erroneous event, element 43’s discovery was reported first in 1925. After being prepared artificially, it was found in samples of molybdenum. This led scientists to search for the element in terrestrial material until 1962 when they discovered its isotope. In very small quantities, it was technetium-99 that was isolated and identified in African uranium ore. 

Technitium is a radioactive, silvery-gray transition metal that tarnishes slowly in moist air. Over the years, large quantities of the metal were produced after its isotope was found in 1962. 

The metal is used as a corrosion inhibitor for steel, used in tracer work, and is a good superconductor. There are reportedly 22 isotopes of the artificially prepared element, and all of them are radioactive. This is also why there are contamination hazards, and the element should only be handled in a glove box. 

Except for hydrochloric acid, technetium is only dissolvable in nitric acid, aqua regia, and concentrated sulphuric acid. (Source)


9 The most abundant element in the universe is hydrogen. The second-most common element is helium, but it is still 10 times less abundant than hydrogen. Also, these two elements together make up 99.9% of known matter in the universe.

Image Credit: NASA/livescience.com

To understand why hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, we need to look into some basic chemistry. It consists of just one proton and one electron and is the only element with no neutron. This makes it the simplest element and also the most common one. 

The second element, helium, is made when hydrogen atoms fuse in stars. Its atomic structure is also not too complicated with a pair of each subatomic particle, or pairs each of protons, electrons, and neutrons. 

It is interesting to note that oxygen is the third most common element but is 1,000 times less abundant than hydrogen in the universe. Researchers say that generally, the higher the atomic number of an element, the less abundant it is. 

However, hydrogen can be incredibly dangerous when it reacts with oxygen. Additionally, we have hydrogen bombs that we, fortunately, haven’t used yet. Hydrogen bombs are similar to atomic bombs because they use a combination of nuclear fusion and fission to cause destruction and release radiation and mechanical shock waves after detonation. (Source)


10 The key ingredient that makes most of the life on earth is carbon, and it also holds the capacity to form up to 10 million unique compounds. If we arrange the carbon atoms in one way, we have soft and pliable graphite. At the same time, rearranging the atoms in another way can create the hardest mineral in the world, diamond.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Carbon, the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, is formed in the belly of stars. The isotope carbon-12 forms 99% of the total carbon present in the universe leaving only 1% for carbon-13 and carbon-14. These two types of carbon, however, are extremely important in dating organic objects. 

Scientists say that it is present in most of the life on Earth because of its dynamic ability to bond with many other elements. We’ve already found nearly 10 million carbon compounds from which 95% of them had carbon as the keystone element. 

The first identification and discovery of this element are lost in history, but it is said that prehistoric people used it as charcoal. Now, in the form of coal, it is the major source of fuel on Earth that provides 30% of energy worldwide. (Source)

Also Read:
10 Intriguing Facts Related to Colors

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