How helium is currently being used

APPLICATIONS OF HELIUM

Its unique combination of attributes makes helium a sought after commodity for many different industrial and technological applications.

The market is anticipated to grow on account of increasing use of helium in various high tech applications. These include cryogenics, welding, inert atmospheres, electronics, lifting, pressure & purging, amongst others. New applications include hybrid air vehicles (such as Airlander and Lockheed Martin’s LMH-1), helium filled hard drives, and Google X Project Loon.

“As helium supplies start to dwindle, the prices have already started to rise, and party balloons are taking a back seat to the more serious applications.”

Priceonomics 16 June 2015

Areas of increasing demand

Some of the fastest growing areas of helium demand come from the following:

CRYOGENICS

MRI scanners are the single largest global consumer of liquid helium, a product that has no substitute in superconducting technology. Demand for MRIs is increasing, particularly in developing nations. For every 1 million people in Japan there are 46 MRIs, in China that number is just 3.

AEROSPACE & AIRCRAFT

Being lighter than air, and having the advantage of being fire-retardant, helium is an important component in aerospace and aircraft manufacturing. Helium has been used in everything from a medium to displace fuel in space rockets, to a lifting agent in new hybrid airships with Lockheed Martin, due to launch their LMH1 hybrid airship in 2018.

ELECTRONICS

Playing an important role in the manufacture of semiconductors, LCD panels and fiber optic cable, helium is now also being used in hard drives to create an atmosphere that is less resistant than air, resulting in less power consumption.

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