Massive helium field found - scientists calling it game changer


Large amounts of helium turned out to be useful in purging the space shuttle fuel tanks as well. (Speaking of archaic transportation methods)
And the stuff was being sold so cheaply, it wasn’t considered cost effective to recover and re-use. The Tanzania find, and the one after that, and the one after that, only forstall the shortage, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. I think in the future (if there is one) people will look at toy helium baloons and big dirigible with equal disdain.


The a flash of flame from the fire source. But in hind site I guess it doesn’t work that way. I would need more fuel added to the mix.

I have a BFA, so it’s amazing I know that fire is hot.


I think the key here is a flow of oxygen as opposed to a finite amount in a balloon that will basically disperse once the balloon fails… you might get flaming bits of balloon.


I can’t find a nice reference for this, but from anecdotes and various pie charts I get the impression that the percent of helium used in party balloons is small, somewhere between 5% and 8% of global availability. I even came across a claim from one balloon seller that they only use helium that had been recycled from medical users, arguing that their use of helium wasn’t competing with a more important need.

I agree that we probably shouldn’t be using it in such a frivolous way as filling party balloons, but it’s not quite as big a deal as I first thought.


Or better yet.


The Helium Bubble. It will burst eventually.


I’m wondering why they didn’t use argon. It’s also inert and being about 1% of the air should be easier to obtain in bulk.


Just to be clear: it’s really REALLY hard to burn O2 . Now, using O2 to enhance burning something else, that’s easy.


What I find interesting is the dissonance between helium being a scarce resource and all the damn party balloons all over the world being handed to kids and floating up into the sky and making my voice squeak and all. I mean, the conclusion has to be that the amount of helium put in party balloons is not even registerable compared to the amount required by science and tech.


Mining and drilling for them was probably last compliant 2 million years ago (minus a few years with no clay tablets.) Is the alchemist hotline heating up?


If they needed to keep outside air from infiltrating the system, I suspect having an inert lighter than air gas was better than argon, which would have sunk instead.


About that…looking at the twitter thing from @uniofoxford I think the ne-eearly level white worktable and duct tape tease the helium into forming from algae in deuterized water. After the dank shotgun with copper gas drying sections and underwater transducer (playing Mighty Mighty Boztones) affect the isotope, it thinks it could work in a lab and in a flash of logic, turns into a more stable form.

That’s how you go from Oxford, to outdoor extreme freshwater zebrafish interrogation, and back again though. Maybe. Maybe the researchers will let on that the handmade guitar and trap set weren’t pictured and Tanzania is where you sing for the minerals or elements you want. (And the hellmouth on the reverse side of the earth, Kent, barfs it up.)


edit’s funky for the moment, but ‘Tunnel to the Other Side of the Earth’ tool suggests the longitude of Nenana, Alaska and latitude of Ecuador (mmm, south of Panama City as far as Medelin?) mid-Pacific, is about opposite to Tanzania.

Dodoma, Nenana, Umirsaang, Errata, let’s call the whole thing off?


Or, we could work on hydrogen fusion technology…


Liquid helium is also used for cooling superconductors.

All those fancy medical scanners, MRIs and MEGs and such? Helium.


Good point thanks.


If you used fusion to power the United States, you’d need to generate about 3 TW of energy on average by fusion. For each helium atom created by deuterium-tritium fusion, you get 17.6MeV of energy. Assuming your reactors are 50% efficient and that all your fusion reactors are deuterium-tritium reactors (a best case scenario if I ever heard of one), if you powered the United States entirely from fusion reactors, you’d make roughly 2 x 3 x 10^12 / (17.6 x 10^6 x 1.602 x 10^-19) = 2.1 x 10^24 atoms per second, which translates into about 15 grams of helium per second. That’s about 420,000 kilograms per year or 2.3 million cubic meters per year. Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia the United States consumed 34 million cubic meters of helium in 2014.

So, fusion isn’t going to solve your helium supply problem.


How do we stop people wasting scarce resources that are needed for really important things like MRI scanners? Making party balloons illegal would be a start. When the helium is gone, it’s gone.


Each second, a single F-1 burned 5,683 pounds (2,578 kg) of oxidizer and fuel: 3,945 lb (1,789 kg) of liquid oxygen and 1,738 lb (788 kg) of RP-1, generating 1,500,000 lbf (6.7 MN) of thrust. This equated to a flow rate of 671.4 US gal (2,542 l) per second; 413.5 US gal (1,565 l) of LOX and 257.9 US gal (976 l) of RP-1. During their two and a half minutes of operation, the five F-1s propelled the Saturn V vehicle to a height of 42 miles (222,000 ft; 68 km) and a speed of 6,164 mph (9,920 km/h). The combined flow rate of the five F-1s in the Saturn V was 3,357 US gal (12,710 l) per second,[4] or 28,415 lb (12,890 kg). Each F-1 engine had more thrust than three Space Shuttle Main Engines combined.[5]


Actually it’s dead easy to burn O2. All you need is a platinum jet and a big PTFE lined tank. Fill tank with fluorine, spray in oxygen through the jet. It’s hypergolic.
Parents: Do not try this at home unless you have some unwanted kids (or in the UK a Leave supporter or two) to do the actual experiment.

A slightly less dangerous experiment involves adding a little nitrogen tetroxide to the oxygen and aiming a jet of it at a tank of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine. And a much less dangerous but more difficult one technically involves a big tank full of methane and a small oxygen jet, but you need an igniter for that one. Piezo igniters work but be careful not to let too much oxygen out before igniting. Be sure the methane tank is thoroughly flushed, ideally by filling it with water and then expelling the water with the methane. Propane also works.

On many of the Jovian and Saturnine satellites, the obvious way to carry around a portable heat source would involve an oxygen tank.