Nasa, for instance, makes no attempt to recycle the helium used to clean is rocket fuel tanks, one of the single biggest uses of the gas. As helium is lighter than air it can be used to inflate airships, blimps and balloons, providing lift.
Although hydrogen is cheaper and more buoyant, helium is preferred as it is non-flammable and therefore safer. Helium's low boiling point makes it useful for cooling metals needed for superconductivity, from cooling the superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners to maintaining the low temperature of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. Divers and others working under pressure use mixtures of helium, oxygen and nitrogen to breathe underwater, avoiding the problems caused by breathing ordinary air under high pressure, which include disorientation.
As well as being used to clean out rocket engines, helium is used to pressurise the interior of liquid fuel rockets, condense hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, and force fuel into the engines during rocket launches.
How is helium made? | HowStuffWorks
Helium can be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals containing uranium and thorium by measuring their retention of helium. The gas is used in solar telescopes to prevent the heating of the air, which reduces the distorting effects of temperature variations in the space between lenses. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium.
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Voucher Codes. Just Eat. National Trust. Premium Articles. Subscription offers. Subscription sign in. Read latest edition. UK Edition. Osheroff , David M. Lee , and Robert C. The phenomenon in helium-3 is thought to be related to pairing of helium-3 fermions to make bosons , in analogy to Cooper pairs of electrons producing superconductivity. This enabled the United States to become the world's leading supplier of helium.
Compressed Helium Gas & Liquid Helium
The goal was to supply barrage balloons with the non-flammable, lighter-than-air gas. Although the extraction process, using low-temperature gas liquefaction , was not developed in time to be significant during World War I, production continued. Helium was primarily used as a lifting gas in lighter-than-air craft. During World War II, the demand increased for helium for lifting gas and for shielded arc welding. The helium mass spectrometer was also vital in the atomic bomb Manhattan Project. The government of the United States set up the National Helium Reserve in at Amarillo, Texas , with the goal of supplying military airships in time of war and commercial airships in peacetime.
Helium use in the United States in was more than eight times the peak wartime consumption. Bureau of Mines arranged for five private plants to recover helium from natural gas. This helium-nitrogen mixture was injected and stored in the Cliffside gas field until needed, at which time it was further purified. Helium produced between and was about In , a small amount of By , commercial quantities of Grade A In the mids, a new plant in Arzew , Algeria, producing 17 million cubic meters million cubic feet began operation, with enough production to cover all of Europe's demand.
Meanwhile, by , the consumption of helium within the U. Algeria quickly became the second leading producer of helium.
As of [update] , the United States National Helium Reserve accounted for 30 percent of the world's helium. Other large reserves were in the Hugoton in Kansas , United States, and nearby gas fields of Kansas and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. New helium plants were scheduled to open in in Qatar , Russia, and the US state of Wyoming , but they were not expected to ease the shortage. In , Qatar started up the world's largest helium unit,  although the Qatar diplomatic crisis severely affected helium production there.