While there are a lot of very practical uses for our helium gas, such as inflating your party balloons, we thought you might get a kick out of some of the lesser known and incredibly high-tech uses for this natural resource. We all know that the metals of the earth are essential for modern technology, but few people are aware that helium is just as vital. Helium is a lighter-than-air gas that keeps party balloons and travelling balloons alike in the air, but it also plays a role in modern electronics, next generation nuclear reactors, and even powering space shuttles.
Surprising, isn't it? Here are three more unexpectedly high-tech uses for helium.
#1 Particle accelerators
One shocking statistic to come out of the United States in recent years was the revelation that a third of America's helium gas was used for cryogenics. This is the study of the effect of incredibly low temperatures. As a stable refrigerant, helium is capable of cooling objects to thousandths of a Kelvin, which is the equivalent of less than minus four hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit (minus two hundred and sixty-seven degrees Celsius). That makes helium gas the world's most powerful coolant.
As a result of this, liquid helium is used to cool the superconducting equipment of particle accelerators, including the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Particle accelerators are generally several miles in length, and the entire length needs cooling. This requires a massive amount of helium gas (imagine how many party balloons that would fill!), so it's fortunate that, once a collider is filled with helium, it's capable of continually reusing it.
#2 Digital devices
You may not realise it, but helium gas is also vital for the internet. Semiconductors are used in pretty much all modern electronic devices and they require helium to cool their magnets. In addition to this, the fibre optic cables responsible for giving you internet access and cable TV must be manufactured in an all-helium atmosphere, in order to prevent bubbles becoming trapped inside. Without helium gas, you wouldn't have any internet!
Magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs) also use liquid helium as a coolant for their superconducting magnet, which provides the magnetic field they need to function. MRI machines are used by doctors for diagnostic purposes, to identify everything from cancer and strokes, to brain diseases and heart damage.
So, if you're in need of some helium gas to inflate the balloons for your next party, we have just the stuff you need. But while you're blowing them all up, have a think about the other uses of this rather astonishing element! Call us today to discuss more about the incredible gases London Gases can provide you with.