Save the helium for MRIs
Kiddies, there will be no more helium-filled balloons because we need them in the emergency room. MRIs depend on the use of helium and our supply is running out. While the element is most plentiful in our universe, apparently there is a problem keeping our arms around it.
“Nation's helium reserve running on empty?
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010; 5:00 PM
Trapped within a subterranean expanse of porous rock near Amarillo, Tex., is the world's largest supply of helium, the Federal Helium Reserve.
The U.S. government is on track to sell the last of this stockpile within five years and let the private sector control the market.
But some scientists fear that within a few decades, there may not be any helium to control. In fact, they say we're close to running out of the second most common element in the universe. (In our solar system, most helium is inside the sun.)
At the current rate of usage, "the world would run out in 25 years, plus or minus five years," Robert Richardson, a Cornell University physicist who won a Nobel Prize in 1996 for his work with superfluid helium, told a gathering of Nobel laureates in August.
This is troubling news for anyone who uses helium, and that's not just stores selling party balloons.
Anyone getting an MRI depends on helium, whose extremely stable, supercooling properties maintain the scanning machines' superconductive magnets. MRI machines account for more than a quarter of the helium used in the United States; it is also widely used in welding and provides the inert atmosphere necessary to manufacture optical fibers and liquid crystal display (LCD) screens.”