Recently during a conversation with a coworker, it became clear that very few people are aware of a critical resource shortage: helium. This gas is responsible for providing buoyant jubilation at birthday parties, facilitating lawn chair aeronautics, and serving in sensitive laboratory equipment. (Ever have an MRI scan? Liquid helium was probably cooling the machine's magnets.) Yet there's a very limited supply of this resource here on planet Earth, and we are rapidly using it!
At the core of helium's scarcity is the very reason we use it: it floats. When helium is released into the atmosphere, it floats up and away. Because helium is a noble gas there are no chemical reactions that can bring it back for human industry to reclaim it. Compounding this problem is that the creation of helium is only currently known to occur in sizable quantities near Amarillo, TX where natural gas accumulates near radioactive elements.
Estimates range from 25 to 100 years before there is no more helium on Earth unless recycling initiatives are implemented as soon as possible. It is crazy to think that within my lifetime children might be unable to hold a helium balloon, not to mention what it will mean to medical and scientific industries that rely on this unique gas!
Image: Corbis via Discovery
Sorry, comments are not allowed for this post.
- Art and Culture (3)
- Attitude and Behavior (9)
- Chemistry (9)
- Computer and Digital Technology (7)
- Earth Science (6)
- Education and Policy (4)
- Energy (5)
- Engineering (8)
- Environment and Sustainability (9)
- Health and Medicine (17)
- Manufacturing and Industry (7)
- Math (2)
- Museums (2)
- Physics (8)
- Space and Astronomy (16)
- Technology (18)
- Transportation (3)
- Happening Now
Take a visually stunning journey into the future of NASA space exploration.
Explore the history and future of materials that impact our lives everyday.
- Coming Soon
An exclusive night for members to experience Robot Revolution.
Write the team behind the blog with your questions or comments.