JUL 13, 2016 05:10 AM PDT
An Answer to the Helium Shortage
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There have been news reports for a few years now about a worldwide shortage of helium, but most people just believed it was a problem for party balloons. Actually, helium, when it's in liquid form, is a critical element in medical devices like MRI scanners and chemical analyzers as well as a coolant for particle accelerators. It's the most abundant element in the universe as a whole, but on Earth, supply was getting low.

That issue may be resolving somewhat with the discovery of a large helium gas field in Tanzania. Researchers from Oxford and Durham Universities in the UK along with a Norwegian company found the helium fields near volcanoes in the East African Rift Valley. The challenge will be to access the gas, as some of it is too close to the volcanic gases underground. The fields are estimated to contain as much as 54 billion cubic feet (BCf) which is significant because the US Federal Helium Reserve currently contains only 24.2 BCf

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