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Sunday, January 6, 2008

 

Next On The Endangered List: Helium?

‘Are we running out of helium? Lee Sobotka, professor of chemistry and physics at Washington University in St. Louis, says it is being depleted so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Tex., that supplies are expected to be gone there within the next eight years.

The helium we have on earth is not readily renewable, it has been built up over billions of years from the decay of natural uranium and thorium. The decay of these elements proceeds at a super-snail’s pace.

It will impact more than balloons and kids’ voices, Sobotka says. “Helium’s use in science is extremely broad but its most important use is as a coolant. Helium is non-renewable and irreplaceable. Its properties are unique and unlike hydrocarbon fuels (natural gas or oil), there are no biosynthetic ways to make an alternative to helium. All should make better efforts to recycle it.”‘




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