• Question: How Many Electrons are in Helium?

    Asked by danniella1588 to Colm, Eoin, Joseph, Lauren, Stephen on 17 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Joseph Roche

      Joseph Roche answered on 17 Nov 2013:

      Helium only has two electrons. But don’t feel sorry for it – it is the second most abundant element in the known universe so it has plenty to be happy about.

    • Photo: colm bracken

      colm bracken answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      Yes as Joseph said Helium has two electrons when it is in its neutral state. However like most substances we can strip electrons off it and in a process called ionisation. So it is possible to have Helium with one or even zero electrons. When we strip both electrons off we are left with a Helium nucleus called an alpha particle. These alpha particles are actually bosons which is kind of funny since it is made of fermions!

    • Photo: Eoin O Colgain

      Eoin O Colgain answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      So in summary, electrons come and go, Helium is defined by its nucleus, which has 2 protons. Typically it has 2 neutrons, but Helium-3 also exists where it only has 1 neutron (3 particles in the nucleus instead of 4).