Flying balloons are filled with Helium, the second lightest chemical element in the Universe. But the irony is there is a global shortage of helium gas in the world. Knowing the fact, still gas balloons are found. Scientists have realized that we should try not to waste Helium in unimportant things. Otherwise, in future we as well as next generation will be in big trouble. Hence scientists have spoken out against wasting Helium in balloons.
Helium is one of the most plentiful gases in the world, but getting to it is the problem. It is lighter than air and is extracted from deep underground. It is usually mined as a by-product of natural gas extraction. When the gas is inserted in a balloon, the balloon gets the ability to wander in air. But natural sources are limited. So inserting this precious natural source into a balloon is illogical.
The resources of Helium are finite and demand of this natural gas is increasing. Due to lack of sufficient Helium, prices of Helium related matter are increasing. At present, filling a single balloon with Helium gas costs between 30p and 50p. Those shops who supplied Balloons to children’s parties and weddings in the UK complained that the price of price balloons had raised up to 20% because of Helium scarcity, additional surcharges, delivery costs and canister rental. American Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Robert Richardson found two years ago that due to shortage of helium, price of one party balloon filled with the gas (Helium) costs more than £60.
Tom Welton, a professor of sustainable chemistry at Imperial College, London, believes that Helium should be used more carefully because Helium cools are the large magnets inside MRI scanners and for which doctors can see the detailed images of what is happening inside a patient’s body. Prof Welton said, “We’re not going to run out of helium tomorrow – but on the 30 to 50 year timescale we will have serious problems of having to shut things down if we don’t do something in the mean time. The reason that we can do MRI is we have very large, very cold magnets – and the reason we can have those is we have helium cooling them down. When you see that we’re literally just letting it float into the air, and then out into space inside those helium balloons, it’s just hugely frustrating. It is absolutely the wrong use of helium.”
The US provides three-quarters of the six billion cubic feet of helium used worldwide every year. But, Doug Thornton, chief executive of the British Compressed Gas Association said, “There is a current shortage. That has led to a two-year price-hike, although we expect that prices may drop again, as new reserves are found in places like Russia. But there aren’t many alternatives in terms of supply.”
Last month the UK’s Balloon Association said that prices were going up and supplies were under pressure. But John Lee, the Chairman of UK’s Balloon Association, mentioned that medicals were not deprived of Helium gas.
John Lee said, “The helium we use is not pure. It’s recycled from the gas which is used in the medical industry, and mixed with air. We call it balloon gas rather than helium for that reason. There is no way the balloon and party industry would even consider taking badly-needed helium from the medical profession. People have predicted that by 2020 there will be no more helium left for the party industry. That is important – people have to come first. If I thought this industry was taking helium away from the medical profession, I would be looking at doing things differently.”
But the interesting news is according to US Geological Survey’s report, current global consumption of Helium is around 180 million cubic meters a year. There’s something like 50 billion cubic meters lying around out there. That’s a near 300 year supply at current usage rates.
Source : BBC