from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Helium is a fascinating element that most people recognize as the stuff that you can inhale to make your voice sound funny. However, it has some really serious uses in MRI machines and rocket engines — and if we’re not careful, we could waste this precious material and not have any kind of replacement for it. Once we run out of helium on earth, there aren’t a lot of great options for obtaining more. It’s not like we can just swing by Jupiter and bring some back. Maybe we can recycle and conserve for a bit, and perhaps someday we’ll figure out fusion.
- Vast helium reserves in Tanzania have been discovered that could supply the world with enough helium for several years (assuming we don’t celebrate will a LOT of unnecessary balloons). About 54 billion cubic feet of helium might last about 6 years or so at the global consumption rate, but this is the first time anyone has actually gone specifically looking for helium deposits (successfully). Presumably, if we have a method that works, we’ll be able to find a bit more helium before we need to resort to helium rationing.
- The lunar surface could be mined for helium. If mining the moon for helium sounds impractical and crazy, it wouldn’t be if we could use a specific isotope of helium for a fusion reactor. Just gotta get fusion technology working….
- The US National Helium Reserve is the largest supplier of helium in the world right now, but that could change. Nobel laureate Robert Richardson warned everyone about “peak helium” a few years ago, but party balloons are still cheap — so it’s likely no one will really care about a helium shortage until it’s almost too late.
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