Name: Paul E. P.
Can you suggest a simple means of massing helium gas?
If so, I would appreciate your help in this matter.
The accurate mass of atoms and molecules is most commonly done with modern
instrumentation by high resolution mass spectrometry, which actually
measures the ratio of the mass to the charge of the ionized atom or
molecule. The principles of mass spectrometry can be found on the web site:
I am not sure why one would try to weigh helium gas rather than measuring
its volume at a known pressure and temperature and using the ideal gas law:
PV=nRT, where P = pressure in atm, V = volume in liters, n = mass/molecular
weight, R = the universal gas constant
(0.0825 liter*atm/mol*K) and T = temperature in kelvins.
Not withstanding, if you weigh the helium in a rigid container, like a glass
or metal, the buoyancy of helium (or anything else) in the rigid container is
determined by the volume of displaced atmosphere. This is the same so it
tends to cancel when the rigid container is tared. You can find the buoyancy
correction discussed in any undergrad text on analytical chemistry.
Click here to return to the Engineering Archives
Update: June 2012