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Where does Helium come from?

 
 
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 02:51 pm
Hey, are we going to run out of Helium? I read that almost all the helium on Earth is mined from within a 50 mile radius of Amarillo Texas and that by 2012 we could be running low.
http://i220.photobucket.com/albums/dd320/HahaShenanigans/oh-the-huge-manatee.jpg
I know, I know, the Hindenberg was Hydrogen, not Helium, but I thought it was a funny picture so I posted it anyway Smile

But what about Helium? How are we going to fill party balloons for our kids in 2061 if all the Helium is gone?

I read that the Moon has Helium. Maybe the next moon mission will be funded by a desire for kids party balloons. Smile

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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 3,278 • Replies: 10
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Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 02:54 pm
@rosborne979,
No we wont run out of helium.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 02:57 pm
@Krumple,
Krumple wrote:
No we wont run out of helium.

Why not? Once we get it out of the ground and let it loose it floats up and dissolves into space. The supply sounds pretty limited to me.
0 Replies
 
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 03:24 pm
The Nucleosynthesis theory of Atomic matter is the current explanation for the existence of Helium, at least originally.

Currently, we usually mine Helium from deposits found in the ground. Once free from such confines Helium is light enough to escape earth's atmosphere. link

EDIT: Ah. Well, I see you knew all that already from your first sentence. I just read the opening question and hit reply. My bad.
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realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 05:06 pm
Did any of you hear Talk of the Nation on NPR today? On Friday's they talk about science. One segment was on blimps (or various synonyms). The military is actively doing research as is private industry.
> A really big blimp, flying low and slow, can carry up to 20 tons of stuff.
> They do not require a highly sophisticated landing field such as an airport. They theoretically could have been used in Haiti after the earthquake where the airport had been severely damaged.
> There is very little leakage of helium from a blimp. Once inflated it can go a year without being topped off.
> Helium is non-flammable and can take even rocket fire without suffering a catastrophic failure.
> There probably is a shortage of helium now, but according to the guests on the show, that should be temporary.
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 05:11 pm
@realjohnboy,
if you inhale helium it makes your voice really funny.
realjohnboy
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 05:16 pm
@dyslexia,
Another NPR program, Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me, had the normally sonorous co-host Carl Castle inhale helium. It was indeed funny.
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 06:19 pm
@realjohnboy,
I heard the same show. That's what made me think of this thread. Smile
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 07:22 pm
@rosborne979,
3He is the isotope we will need for fusion.(Its got that handy neutron). USGS has reported that the moon is relatively loaded with3He. Its in the moonal soil at about 0.18 ppm. (not exactly a bonanza). I have no idea how they calibrated their spectral analyzers for such low concentrations unless (as a noble gas) its spectra is really unique. I know that it gives a yellow spectral response but I have no idea what that translates to in wavelengths. SO, Ill take the word of these telescope jockies.

We used to get a certain low % of normal He and 4He in the gas portion of crude pumping. The earth strata where oil is found is loaded with uranium salts called "Carnotite sand". Uranium decays and besides the std breakdown chain, we get some He for our balloons and party favors. I know that we use some He to produce some kind of electronic gizmos.
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tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Sep, 2012 06:43 pm
The Weird Story Of Why Helium Prices Are Going Through The Roof
http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/09/28/161962626/the-weird-story-of-why-helium-prices-are-going-through-the-roof
0 Replies
 
Zarathustra
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Sep, 2012 03:00 pm
@rosborne979,
Some things on the topic of Helium:

Where located: Helium is found underground as well as trace amounts in the ocean. If I recall correctly about 20% off all natural gas deposits, by volume, are made up of Helium, so it is not going away soon. The amount of Helium per well is quite variable.

Origin: Remember whenever you note radiation reactions that emit alpha particles you are noting Helium production. Far and away the most Helium is created in (the main pathway) reactions that change uranium to lead. The uranium remaining in the earth is tiny compared to historical amounts so very little helium is thus being produced today, and so helium is considered a non-renewable resource.

How used: In activities needing an inert (relatively) substance. It is especially important in cold temperature physics, as low temperatures can be reached without the cost and difficulty of dealing with hydrogen. The coldest temperatures do require hydrogen. Helium is also extremely important in quantum research as many strange quantum qualities are seen in Helium (due to QM effects relative to its full electron orbital). Being extremely simple in subatomic components it offers the only substance other than hydrogen in which actual QM calculations are, to some extent, possible.

Helium deficit: I am not current on this but I would bet any problems getting Helium are due to short-term production issues rather than the end of the resource.

New Helium sources: While helium has been found on the moon, “relatively loaded” seems quite optimistic relative to actual amount, and minimal research results. However, I have heard of a new source of helium found in Martian rock samples that contain blood vessels and vertebra of animals… perhaps you should look into this new source.
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