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Helium Reserves

July 4, 2016

A new discovery in Africa may ease concerns about a global helium shortage.


Michael Pereckas CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Containers of liquid helium. (Michael Pereckas CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr)


The search for helium. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Helium is best known as the lighter than air gas used to fill party balloon and (inhales) for it’s ability to make adults sound like chipmunks. But helium’s also critically important for MRI scanners, gas lasers, and other uses, and there’s a concern we may be running out of it. Oxford geologist Chris Ballentine and his colleagues recently conducted the first ever systematic search for the gas, and now report discovering a vast reserve of helium in the African country of Tanzania.   

CHRIS BALLENTINE (Oxford University):

The amount that is in this one small area of East African rift is enough to supply, if it’s all produced, the entire global need for approximately seven years.


And the techniques they developed could help them explore other promising areas, to meet helium demands far into the future. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon