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What is Helium Used For?

December 8, 2020  |   by   Imperial Helium 
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The uses of helium go well beyond party balloons. In fact, helium’s unique physical and chemical properties make it incredibly useful across a range of industries, from medicine to power generation.

 

Why helium is so important

Helium has many qualities that make it irreplaceable. For starters, it’s incredibly light, the smallest molecule (He is smaller than H2), frictionless at specific temperatures, the coldest substance on earth in liquid form, and helium is completely non-reactive. These special characteristics and many more, make helium ideal for cooling, maintaining controlled environments, leak detection, medical practices and airborne activities including lifting uses in blimps and balloons.

 

What is helium used for?

 

 

Controlled Environments

Helium gets along well with other elements and maintains steady temperature well. It is perfect for maintaining controlled environments because it has the highest ionization potential (energy required to pull off an electron), second highest specific heat (energy required to increase temperature) and second highest thermal conductivity of all gases.

Common uses
  • Gas of choice for high-tech metal and plasma arc welding
  • Gaseous cooling of fiber-optic cable and nuclear reactors
  • Used to control temperatures for aerospace applications

 

General Research, Medical Applications and Diving

Helium’s low liquefaction point and very low solubility make it ideal for mixing with other gases to improve safety in diving, medicine, space exploration, etc.

Common uses
  • Used in diving gas tanks to replace a portion of nitrogen, so that deep sea divers can breathe safely
  • Gaseous helium is used in space launches, to pressurize and remove the flammable liquid hydrogen fuel
  • Used in the medical field to assist with breathing, for example, treating acute asthma

 

Super-Cooling and Cryogenics

Liquid helium is the coldest substance on earth, making it the ultimate refrigeration tool for advanced technological devices, like super magnets, that need to be cooled down quickly to operate.

Common uses
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, specifically when the element is set at -269 C, it becomes usable as a liquid coolant for the MRI magnet/li>
  • Used in a similar way for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometers/li>
  • Particle Accelerators
  • Quantum Computing
  • X-ray Crystallogrphy

 

Blimps and Balloons

Being the second lightest element and lighter than air, helium is ideal for air transport.

Common uses

 

Leak Detection

The small elemental size of helium means that it is the ultimate escape artist, and perfect for finding any leaks when the consequences could be catastrophic.

Common uses
  • Pipeline leak detection
  • Pressure vessel testing
  • Purging  containers of reactive (explosive) substances

 

Who uses helium in North America?

While NASA and the USA Department of Defence are two of the largest users of helium in North America, with NASA using approximately 90-100 MMcf of helium yearly, the helium market is extremely diverse owed to the wide range of uses.

The end users of helium in North America include thousands of hospitals, research institutions, high tech fabricators, and party balloon suppliers among others. You have been a direct or indirect user of helium, through some the common uses listed above.

Imperial Helium has developed a strategic alliance with a major gas offtaker and an EPC group to work collaboratively with field experts and increase returns by capturing opportunities along the value chain. Poised to help meet the demand, Imperial Helium is excited to contribute to a wide range of important industries.
Imperial Helium has developed strategic relationships supporting the marketing and distribution of Helium to the end market. Poised to help meet the demand, Imperial Helium is excited to contribute to a wide range of important industries.

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