BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Scientists have warned that helium production has been dropping for years, because of the depletion of resources. However, a major discovery has been made recently, that offers hope for the future. It seems that the East-African country of Tanzania, holds large helium deposits.
British experts have found these helium gas resources by using a new exploring system which helped them make this breakthrough, important for humanity’s future.
Students from Oxford and Durham Universities together with Norwegian company Helium One have come to the conclusion that volcanic activity creates vast deposits of helium gas.
They used their theoretical findings together with geochemical sampling and seismic imaging to identify this precious reserve.
The industry was slowing down because of the lack of helium gas. Helium is not only used in party balloons but it is critical to the functioning of MRIs, as liquid helium cools the superconducting magnets in the MRIs.
Helium is also used in the industry, to detect leaks in containers, to grow crystals and to cool components. It has science uses as well, especially mixed with other substances to obtain super-cool temperatures so that these substances can be studied better.
Even though helium is very abundant in the Universe, on Earth, this gas is preciously rare. That is around five parts per million. Being one of the lightest elements, this means it sneaks out of the atmosphere of Earth quickly, by floating.
Most current helium resources are the result of heavy elements such as uranium which undergo radioactive decay. This process also produces helium atoms. Some of this gas remains beneath Earth’s surface, trapped inside, just like other natural gasses.
So far, the largest helium deposit was located near Amarillo, Texas. It was almost a billion cubic feet. In the 90’s, the US Congress privatized these reserves, essentially selling it. The result was fluctuating prices.
A Nobel-winning scientist in the US estimated that we would run out of helium in 25 years. This was the conclusion of a 2010 study.
Even though it is a renewable resource, as explained above, retrieving it becomes very costly at one point, so production might slow down or cease.
This is why the recent major discovery is so important. Volcanic activity may be the key of cheaper means of extracting helium as it is easier to extract gas from shallower fields.
The Rift Valley in Tanzania has such a large supply of helium that it could supply 1.2 million MRIs.
Image Souce – Pixabay