The Science Daily has reported that helium supplies may be in danger. Helium, which is the gas which lifts the balloons at children’s parties, changes the voice and also used in some mixed-gas diving has been reported as depleting so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Texas, that supplies are expected to be depleted there within the next eight years.
Helium plays a role in nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectroscopy, welding, fiber optics and computer microchip production, among other technological applications. NASA uses large amounts annually to pressurize space shuttle fuel tanks.
The helium we have on Earth has been built up over billions of years from the decay of natural uranium and thorium. It is applied broadly in science and technology, from nuclear magnetic resonance to computer microchip production and devices like this mass spectroscopy apparatus. It has also been discovered that combining helium with 40 per cent oxygen allowed patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to increase their exercise capacity by an average of 245 per cent.
Helium is an important gas for technical divers who are diving below depths of 40 metres, as it gets rid of the intoxicating effect of oxygen and depth and also reduces the nitrogen content of the breathing gas allowing divers to act and think more clearly.
In addition to Texas, helium can be found in small regions of Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. It is marketed in Australia and Algeria. And Russia has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, where helium certainly exists.
For an indepth read, see the Science Daily at www.sciencedaily.com