There’s definitely something cheerful about a helium-filled balloon, but if scientists have their way, helium balloons may become a thing of the past. This is not a safety issue but instead revolves more around the diminishing amount of helium on the planet. Balloon manufacturers and balloon distributors have a different view.
From the scientist’s point of view, helium is a limited commodity. It serves many important medical and space travel purposes. For example, helium is used to cool the large magnets used in MRI scanners. In the space program, helium is used clean the rocket’s engines.
Professor of Chemistry, Tom Welton of the Imperial College in London, is one of the leaders in opposing the use of helium for recreational purposes. Emphasising the increased reliance on the medical community for MTI scans, Welton said there is not enough helium to go around and he recommends it be treated as a protected gas.
Helium is not only lighter than air but has excellent cooling capabilities. Helium can be converted to a liquid form through a process known as cryogenics. Most of the world’s helium deposits are found in the United States.
In an interview with BBC Radio, 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 meantime."
Welton explained that the only way MRI’s work is because helium can cool the large magnets. Very cold magnets are critical to the operation of the scanning device.
Doug Thornton is the Chief Executive Officer of the British Compressed Gas Association. The association is the trade organization for helium suppliers and retailers. Mr. Thornton told the BBC that, There is a current shortage of the gas.”
Resources Discovered in Russia
Thornton went on to explain that prices have spiked dramatically over the past two years. Thornton indicated that new sources of helium may be found in Russia. These new sources could restore confidence in supply and cause a reduction on the price of the gas.
Retailers indicate that at current prices, it can cause between 30p and 50p to fill a single decorative balloon. The UK’s Balloon Association insists that use of helium by its members is not affecting the supply of helium needed for medical screening. The association told the BBC, "The helium we use is not pure," he said. "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.”
Let’s hope the price of helium turns down and balloons can continue to make special events.. special.
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This article was produced by UK based Wedding Balloons Specialists, Ben's Balloons.