Helium running out!

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by John Connellan, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Who said anything about getting rid of birthday parties? What, can't have a birthday party without helium filled balloons??? Jesus your spoiled!

    I probably would be easier to make helium from nuclear fusion then to mine it from gas giants.
     
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    You could use nitrogen or argon.
     
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  5. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    We make all of our xenon from air, and xenon is 1/60 as common per volume in air then helium, so its not impossible to imagine mining helium out of our atmosphere, its is just condensing helium out of air requires several more steps (pre-cooling) which is why existing atmosphere condensers do not make all the other gaseous but helium, at present there is no economical reason for them to pay for the equipment to extract helium.
     
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  7. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

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    I don't see how conserving apostrophes and hyphens is helping. :shrug:
     
  8. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    I'll accept that as you admitting you misconstrued my argument, your apology is accepted.
     
  9. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    Not to mention, it's rather warm up there

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  10. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah but most of that helium is at very high altitude isn't it? That causes more problems in itself
     
  11. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Well yes at high altitudes helium percentage increases and becomes the dominate gas near the end of the thermosphere but I believe the measure of ~5.25 ppm is a measure at sea level.

    The problems of helium cooling is one related to a phenomena (I can't remember the name of) in which certain gases like helium (and I think Neon) will heat upon expanding unless below a temperature far below room temperature, all gases behave this way beyond a certain temperature (as such we are use to the "normal" condition of a gas cooling upon expanding) but helium must be brought to cryogenic temperatures before it can be cooled via traditional methods of cooling a gas by expanding it rapidly.

    Here are some really "cool" videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw6h4K6begA
     
  12. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    I believe that what you are trying to think of is "critical pressure and temperature."

    At any value above those you cannot liquefy any gas - no matter what.

    And no, no gas simply heats up upon expanding - they all become cooler and will readily absorb more heat.

    The problem with liquefying both helium and hydrogen is that they require MANY stages of compression along with using other cryogenic liquids (like oxygen and nitrogen) that are allowed to boil to remove the heat in the latter compression stages. Thus, it's a fairly complex and expensive process overall.
     
  13. John Connellan Valued Senior Member

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    Wow, I never realized He was in such abundance! I mean, methane is only present at just under 2 ppm and that is considered a mixing ratio large enough to be a concern for greenhouse effects.
     
  14. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Nope, found it:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule-Thomson_inversion_temperature

    Helium and hydrogen are two gases whose Joule–Thomson inversion temperatures at a pressure of one atmosphere are very low (e.g., about 51 K (−222 °C) for helium). Thus, helium and hydrogen warm up when expanded at constant enthalpy at typical room temperatures. On the other hand nitrogen and oxygen, the two most abundant gases in air, have inversion temperatures of 621 K (348 °C) and 764 K (491 °C) respectively: these gases can be cooled from room temperature by the Joule–Thomson effect.[1]

    For an ideal gas, μJT is always equal to zero: ideal gases neither warm nor cool upon being expanded at constant enthalpy.


    So first to cool helium you need to pre-cool it below its "The Joule–Thomson coefficient" temperatures. Multiple expansion stages I think are common amongst all gas condensers.
     
  15. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

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    You should check the batteries in your Satire Meter.
     
  16. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    you should check that pain in your ass.
     
  17. Roman Banned Banned

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    It will be cut out as soon as the prices begin to rise.
     
  18. gluon Banned Banned

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  19. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

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    I know. I hope Obama puts this high on his list.
     
  20. weed_eater_guy It ain't broke, don't fix it! Registered Senior Member

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    Praise Obama, the exalted one, the holiest of holy dieties, for securing my right as an American citizen to inhale helium and sing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" until I pass out!
     
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    About 40+ years ago, when I began to work on the controlled fusion program I realized the helium produced by fusion would be insignificant compared the helium lost in just keeping superconducting magnets cold.

    I then leaned that some natural gas wells, mainly in Texas area, were the US’s main source of He, but it was not being recovered then as the demand (sales of He) did not pay for the cost of running the government's He recovery plant. (Helium was then, probably still is, one of the "critical materials" the government stockpiles.)

    After that I realized that contrary to what one might naturally think, He balloons at celebrations etc. were essential to saving He for future needs. When that separation / storage plant did not operate, the He went unburned thru many gas stoves etc and was lost forever.

    I do not know if this is still true, but someone should look into that before opposing this "frivolous use" of a very limited resource in He balloons.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2009
  22. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Well, helium doesn't contribute to the greenhouse effect because it doesn't absorb/emit light in the IR.
     
  23. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    That is quite correct. The first excited state of He is 22 (or was it 24?) ev above the ground state - not even the sun is radiating many photons with at much energy - the Earth is thermally radiating essentially none. (A wild guess: one per second for the entire Earth.)

    Actually, He may have a "negative GHG effect" as it can collisionally depopulate an excited state that might have larger absorption cross section for the IR the Earth does radiate.
     

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