Peak Scientific Instruments Ltd

Alternative Solutions to Helium


Courtesy of Peak Scientific Instruments Ltd

Helium is well known as Helium that makes balloons and airships float and in its liquid form, Helium is used in a variety of applications including cooling for magnets in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners, cooling infrared detectors, and as a superconductor coolant in the large hadron collider at CERN. Helium is distilled from natural gas deposits that have collected in the presence of Uranium and Thorium. These radioactive elements produce Helium when they undergo alpha decay1 and the gas remains trapped along with the natural gas until it is extracted. The presence of Helium together with natural gas was first discovered in 1903 in Kansas2 and since then the physical qualities of Helium (inertness, lightness, extremely low liquid temperature) have made its use essential in a number of areas in industry and science, as well as it being a mainstay at birthday parties. In levels of 0.3% by volume in natural gas deposits, Helium is deemed to be worth extracting3 and some natural gas deposits are reported to contain up to 7% Helium by volume.

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