Helium, an incredibly versatile gas, powers numerous aspects of our daily lives. From the medical sector to science and space exploration, helium plays a significant role aside from filling up party balloons.
As your trusted bottle gas supplier, we will explore helium, why it is so important as a gas and how it plays a part in various industries. We will discuss the engineering marvels for which helium is used, including leak detection and maintaining stable environments in sensitive industrial processes. Recognising the importance of this gas is enlightening and something to spark curiosity the next time you begin inflating balloons.
What Is Helium?
Helium is the universe’s second lightest and most abundant element, identified by its atomic number, 2. It was first discovered in the sun’s spectrum. This factor gave the gas its name, derived from “Helios,” the Greek god of the sun. In its natural state, helium is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas, which can be pressurised into helium canisters. It has the lowest boiling point among all other elements, making it ideal for cooling applications.
Being the lightest noble gas, it is typically unreactive, which contributes to its widespread use in conditions where reactions are undesirable. In addition, helium’s lightness allows it to lift objects, which explains its famous use in balloons and airships. These unique characteristics—its lightness, inertness, and extreme coolness—make it an invaluable resource in various industries, from healthcare to space exploration.
The Role of Helium in Renewable Energy
Helium could play a role in renewable energy, particularly in hydrogen fuel cells:
Efficient Generation and Storage: Helium could be used in fuel cell production to help generate and store hydrogen more efficiently. By mixing helium with hydrogen gas, the relative density of gas decreases, minimising hydrogen embrittlement, a material degradation caused by hydrogen. Reduced embrittlement can result in longer-lasting and cost-efficient fuel cells.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles: In hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a blend of helium and hydrogen may potentially advance hydrogen gas storage and transportation. Exploiting helium’s properties, it could aid in improving the fuel cell’s performance and extend the range of vehicles.
Advanced Applications: Though not commercially implemented, helium-3, a lighter isotope of helium, has promising potential in nuclear fusion research. If successful, nuclear fusion could provide a near-limitless, clean energy source using helium.
Helium in Medicine and Healthcare
In healthcare, helium has an essential role in cooling MRI machines. These machines use powerful magnets that require superconductivity, achieved by cooling to around -269°C. Helium, with a low boiling point of -268.93°C, is an excellent coolant, absorbing and dissipating heat efficiently. Maintaining appropriate temperatures ensures high-quality imaging, assisting in accurate diagnosis and treatment monitoring. MRI machines wouldn’t efficiently provide critical, non-invasive body insights without helium’s cooling properties.
Medical Research: Helium’s Untapped Potential
In addition to its well-established role in MRI machines, helium holds undiscovered potential for further medical applications. One promising area of research is the use of helium gas mixtures to assist in lung treatments, specifically for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and asthma. Breathing in helium-containing gas mixtures may reduce airway resistance, provide temporary relief from the obstruction, and facilitate the administration of medications. While research is still ongoing and more studies are needed, helium-based mixtures could represent a new frontier in respiratory care.
Helium in Science and Technology
The likes of our helium gas refills play an important part in the scientific field. In astronomy, helium assists in tracing the life cycles of stars and the composition of galaxies, representing a key to deciphering our universe. The amount of helium surrounding a star, for example, determines the generational status of the star. For geologists, helium detectors serve as guides, pinpointing potential oil and gas reservoirs due to helium’s tendency to accumulate above these reserves, making underground exploration more efficient.
Technology’s Silent Partner
Helium is critical in fibre optics manufacture, which has two stages: preform manufacturing and fibre drawing. In preforming manufacturing, helium enhances the uniformity and stability of materials. Helium’s rapid heat absorption during fibre drawing efficiently cools new fibre, preventing damage. Quick cooling allows the immediate application of protective coatings. Also, helium recovery systems reduce consumption in manufacturing by over 95%. With high thermal conductivity and its ability to create a pure environment, helium underpins quality and efficiency in fibre optics production.
Helium in Engineering
Helium is utilised in numerous engineering applications due to its unique properties.
Leak Detection: Owing to helium’s small molecular size, it readily migrates through tiny leaks. Engineers use helium leak detection methods to ensure tight seals in pressurised systems like air conditioning units, vacuum devices, and automotive parts.
Maintaining Stable Environments: Helium’s high thermal conductivity, low boiling point, and chemically inert nature make it indispensable for stable, temperature-controlled conditions in sensitive processes. Applications include welding, semiconductor manufacturing, and telescopes requiring precise temperature maintenance.
Deep-Sea Diving: Commercial dive teams use helium-based breathing gas mixtures, such as trimix and heliox, which enable deep-sea diving with minimal narcotic effects and decreased risk of decompression sickness.
For All Your Helium Needs, Choose Adams Gas
It’s clear that helium is much more than the gas filling your fun party balloons. Its significance runs deep, driving numerous industries and being at the heart of various technologies. From healthcare and fibre optics to engineering applications and potential renewable energy sources, helium indeed showcases an impressive multifaceted nature.
While we appreciate helium for the joy it brings to our parties, the extensive applications for helium truly captivate and hold immense practical value. At Adams Gas, we’re proud to be part of the supply chain that brings this versatile gas to you. Whether you require helium canisters for 50 balloons or 100, or more industrial applications, we’ve got you covered. You can conveniently order your gas online with us, and we’ll ensure speedy delivery to your doorstep. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch, and our staff will be sure to help.