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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Helium shortage forces Cumbrian shops to ration gas-filled balloons

A worldwide shortage of helium is forcing Cumbrian party shops to ration gas-filled balloons at weddings, Christenings and birthday parties.

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A simple google search would of uncovered this article from Forbes magazine - http://www.weldingandgasestoday.org/blogs/Devin-OToole/index.php/2012/05/two-myths-surrounding-the-helium-shortage/

Posted by please research your articles before posing on 25 September 2012 at 14:05

Helium is the second lightest element after hydrogen, but the point about it escaping Earth's gravity is valid. The sun is constantly fusing hydrogen into helium, although it is no use to us there! As has been said, helium is produced (incredibly slowly) through radioactive decay deep within the Earth's crust, and drilling operations liberate it as a by-product - it is not and never has been made from oil. If we perfect nuclear fusion we may be able to produce helium, but until then there is a limited amount available.

Posted by Darren Robinson on 22 September 2012 at 10:39

Supplies are indeed running out, PaulM. Helium is the lightest element and as such, the Earth's gravity is not enough to keep it in the atmosphere. All the helium that we use and then let escape into the atmosphere is lost forever into space.

All terrestrial helium is a 'retired' radioactive particle made by radioactive materials giving off alpha particles. In the right conditions, these alpha particles pick up a couple of electrons and form helium. This is done deep underground and prevents the helium from escaping into space. The process is very, very slow and we only have cheap helium now because the USA had massive stores held for when lighter-than-air transportation looked economical in the 1930's as a by-product of oil and gas drilling. These reserves are now running out and present drilling doesn't produce as much helium.

So, remember to recycle your helium and if you want floaty balloons - tough. There's better uses for this amazing material than balloons.

Posted by Nathan on 20 September 2012 at 13:13

PaulM, its been well covered in scientific journals helium is running out and at current rate of use, will run out in 20 to 30 years. Google it. Helium is produced by radioactive delay and held in pockets in the earth and takes millions of years to produce. Once helium is released, it floats into the atmosphere and keeps on going into space. The US is so concerned they have a facility in Texas holding a billion cubic feet of the stuff to maintain vital services until an alternative can be found.

Your comment regarding flaws in MRI is plain stupid, shouldn't we use this valuable gas more responsibly rather filling stupid balloons?

Posted by Townie on 20 September 2012 at 12:38

PaulM - Helium eventually escapes from the atmosphere so there is less in the world. Although there's plenty being created in stars so universal supplies seem assured for at least the next few billion years.

Posted by Jason on 20 September 2012 at 12:09

this seems like a bit of a none story, if it was so serious why havnt I herd it anywhere else? however if this is the case I have an excess of methane if thats anygood?;)

Posted by Tony Lopez on 20 September 2012 at 10:34

Just a few vital points;

1) Helium is an Element
2) Remember your physics principles "matter can neither be created nor destroyed"

So, there isn't a shortage, there is exactly the same amount in the world as there has always been - it's just in a different place!

So while people are experiencing difficulties in supply, it certainly isn't 'running out'

As for use in MRI - it's a coolant, and therefore recyclable (like the coolant in your car, or a Nuclear power station)- if medical use is such that it requires constant replacement, then that is a serious flaw that needs addressing.

On a more serious note, there is no mention of the most useful aspect of He, for making silly voices !!!

Posted by PaulM on 20 September 2012 at 08:11

A new career for retired politicians and councillors???
Filling balloons with hot air!!!

Posted by Ian on 19 September 2012 at 17:05

20 year supply left, well if that's the case they wanna stop wasting it on useless party balloons and keep it for the medical industry.

Posted by howard atkinson on 19 September 2012 at 15:30

I think our first concern should be the effect on the functioning of MRI scanning machines. helium is a vital coolant in these medical wonders. So, hate to be a party-pooper, but let's get the priorities in correct order.
Further reading:http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/med-tech/why-is-there-a-helium-shortage-10031229

Posted by Steve Mc on 19 September 2012 at 14:43

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