Helium, that strange lighter than air gas used in party balloons may be completely depleted from the Earth within 20 years. But, far from party balloon use, helium is critical in medical use in MRI units, which account for about a quarter of the gases use, in addition to NASA rockets, LCD display screen manufacturing as well as some welding applications. Helium is found as about 0.03% of natural gas, and in a few other places. In 1996, at the request of President Clinton who was attempting to cut federal spending, congress responded with legislation to privatize helium, and remove it from federal management which started a few years after WWI when helium was used in military balloons and blimps.

With the U.S. supply of helium rapidly being depleted, Russia and China both have some supply, where it can be collected from natural gas or some select rock formations. Earth’s Sun contains the most known reserves of helium, but it cannot be collected for obvious reasons while the Earth’s supply runs lower and lower.

How the world can deal without the gas with supercooling properties in manufacturing or MRI operation is a good question. Perhaps, by time the gas nears total depletion some synthetic gas substitute might be able to be produced for medical or other use. Helium-logo-large