Monday, May 2, 2011

That helium balloon is valuable

It's not really news: I had heard this a year or more ago. This, though, is the first article to which I can link that explains why helium is a scarce commodity, and why it will only grow scarcer and more valuable as time passes.

Unlike its flammable elemental sibling hydrogen, helium can't be produced through relatively simple chemical processes on Earth. The only way I know of to produce it, in fact, is through hydrogen fusion, a process which on Earth is currently only possible through uncontrolled reactions, e.g., the H-bomb. And although helium isn't consumed through any of its uses, i.e., it's not transformed into something else through combustion or chemical reactions, it's nevertheless exceedingly difficult to recycle. Unlike most of the gases comprising our atmosphere, helium is light enough literally to float away from the planet.

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