When you chill helium, nothing changes until it gets extremely cold. It remains a gas until it reaches a temperature below 5 Kelvin (-267.960 Celsius, -450.3280 Fahrenheit) at a pressure of 2.24 atm (227kPa).

1908 Heike Onnes cooled helium to below 5 Kelvin. At this temperature helium turns into a liquid. He could not solidify it by cooling it further because helium does not have a triple point temperature where solid, liquid, and gas phases are in equilibrium with one another. In 1906, solid helium was created by subjecting helium to a pressure of 25 atmospheres at a temperature below 1K.

At temperatures close to absolute zero, helium does not exhibit any viscosity. This makes helium, under those conditions, something called a superfluid.

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35 Responses to “What happens to helium when you chill it?”

  1. It shares information about superfluids. The explanation above the video provides more details.

  2. roland_keuter says:

    What is this video about aurora???

  3. emilyannejon says:

    “Baffling concepts”!!! lol
    That’s SO cold!!!

  4. That would be -459.67 degrees! Brrr!

  5. This was originally on the BBC as a two-part documentary entitled Absolute Zero. Unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s available on their site right now!

  6. Kelli Kruid says:

    Do you have a link for this entire show?

  7. Kelli Kruid says:

    what is 0 k in fahrenheit

  8. The volume of a specific amount held at a constant pressure would be directly proportional to its temperature. So as the heat increases quickly, so would its volume (and vice-versa!)

  9. Kelli Kruid says:

    yes it makes sense, but what if it gets really hot really fast?

  10. Anytime you have a large temperature difference, the object will heat up faster than if the temperature were closer to the object. For example, if you take a frozen (plastic) bottle of water and place it in the refrigerator, it will stay frozen for a couple of days. However when you stick it on the counter (which is warmer than the fridge), it will thaw in a couple of hours. Does that make sense?

  11. Kelli Kruid says:

    Hey Aurora It’s Kaden Kruid I was wondering what happens when you heat something at 0 Kelvin then heat it up really quickly

  12. No, 0 K is the temperature which all atomic motion stops.

  13. Kelli Kruid says:

    Is it possible to chill any thing below 0 Kelvin?

  14. That is an excellent question – and I am not really sure about what would happen! I will ask my chemistry professor friend and see what he thinks and let you know.

  15. Kelli Kruid says:

    If you have a container with holes in the bottom and you chill the helium will it fall through the holes?

  16. Melanie Williamson says:

    wwwwwwwwoooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! that is awesome!

  17. Kelli Kruid says:

    what does the helium do when it is chilled to zero Kelvin

  18. They each condense into their liquid and then solid states, but you have to not only change the temperature but also the pressure to get each to liquefy and solidify.

  19. Gabriele Pealer says:

    What happens to oxygen and carbon dioxide when you chill it? Does it somehow freeze?

  20. Thanks Terri – it looks like the last digit of each was the superscript for the degree mark, but somehow it lost its formatting. Thanks for your eagle eye so I could correct it! I’ve updated the page so that everything is correct. The temperature listed is the transition temperature at which helium turns into a liquid from a vapor state.

  21. Terri Cleary says:

    Proof reader here, again. The 1st paragraph states “1 Kelvin (-2730 Celsius, -4790 Fahrenheit)” The second paragraph states “1 Kelvin (-479 F).” While both are really cold, one is 10 times the other. As a further kicker, Google says 1 Kelvin = -457.87 F and -272.15 Celsius. I know Google is not always a reliable source, but at the least, the first paragraph should be corrected. — Terri & Xander

  22. Oops – sorry about that! I’ve re-uploaded the video for you and it should be working now. Enjoy!

  23. Corrinne Koens says:

    This video link is not working for me neither!!!

  24. Annette Perrochet says:

    I think “amazing” is an understatment. It’s astounding and surprising and amazing, all three! 😀


  25. True, the First Law of Thermodynamics would hold that the energy would be constant if the system is isolated (no external energy is applied), thus “motion” could not continue indefinitely. But here there is additional energy contributing to the entire system, since it includes the chamber that creates the cold conditions allowing helium to go superfluid. Isn’t science amazing?

  26. Annette Perrochet says:

    This is crazy! One of the most universal points in science is that perpetual motion is impossible, and here it’s saying that this can be used to make an eternal fountain! This defies science! However, this is incredibly cool. (pun not intended)

  27. Nora Taylor says:

    What is used to cool the helium to -479 F?

  28. Lydia Fancher says:

    alien liquid? o.o

  29. To understand superconductivity, it’s helpful to understand what normally happens to electricity as it flows through a wire. As you may know, energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be changed from one form to another. In the case of wires, some of the electrical energy is changed to heat energy. If you’ve ever touched a wire that had been in use for a while, and discovered it was hot, you’ve experienced this. The heat energy is a waste. It simply means that less electricity gets to its final destination. This is why superconductivity is so cool (no pun intended.) By cooling things down to temperatures near absolute zero, which is as low as temperatures can get, you can create a phenomenon where electricity flows without having any of it converted to heat. This phenomenon is superconductivity. Here’s a super-cool Superconductor Roller Coaster!

  30. Kaelen Davis says:

    That is so awesome! I can’t believe it! What it does is amazing What’s “super-conductivity?”

  31. Cindy Thompson says:

    That’s awesome!

  32. Debra Thomson says:

    Whoa! That is AMAZING!
    Holly Thomson

  33. Whoops – sorry about that! We moved things around and this link didn’t get updated. Try again – it should work for you now.

  34. Deanna Betts says:

    “What happens to helium when you chill it?” this video link is not working.