The coming shortage of helium

30 Jun

LINDAU, Germany--Quick: What do MRI machines, rockets, fiber optics, LCDs, food production and welding have in common?

They all require the inert, or noble, gas helium for their use or at some stage of their production. And that helium essentially could be gone in less than three decades, Robert C. Richardson, winner, along with Douglas Osheroff and David Lee, of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics, said at the 60th annual Nobel Laureate Lectures at Lindau today. “Once it is released into the atmosphere, say, in the form of party balloons, it is lost to the Earth forever--it is lost to the Earth forever ,” he added.