Where do we get helium for balloons: Helium shortage impacts science, industry and celebrations :: WRAL.com

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Helium shortage impacts science, industry and celebrations :: WRAL.com

By Tony Rice, WRAL contributor

If helium balloons are on your shopping list for a Mother’s Day or a graduation celebration, you’ve probably noticed fewer shops are filling balloons and those that do are charging more. The cost of helium has increased more than 250% in recent years, and shortages have already begun because we are running of helium and can’t make more.

While it is the second-most abundant element in the universe (behind hydrogen) and the Sun produces about 600 million metric tons each second, our supply here on Earth is limited. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We can’t make more, and once used, the lightweight element escapes into space.

The helium atom is smaller than any other element, and only hydrogen is lighter. That makes it a very good lifting gas in applications like balloons and blimps. But helium has far more critical uses than birthday balloons.

Nearly all of our helium is extracted from natural gas, a byproduct of radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. Much of the extraction in the United States and the world comes from underground gas fields between Amarillo, Texas, and Hugoton, Kansas, where a very high concentration, up to 2%, can be found.

In the 1920s, when blimps were a weapon of war, 90% of the helium extracted in the U.S. went to the Navy’s airship program. In the 1950s, helium became important to the space program. In the 1960s, the Federal Helium Reserve was created. This one-of-kind system stores about more than a third of the world’s helium in crude form in the Cliffside gas field. The porous underground rock spanning portions of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas holds gas like a sponge holds liquid, capped above by calcium anhydrite and on the sides by water.

The reserve continued to build, but by the mid-90s, blimps weren’t a bit part of the military. Congress directed the government out of the helium business with the Helium Privatization Act of 1996. While it did help pay off the cost of the reserve, the quick sell-off at below market prices discouraged private competition as well as conservation of this non-renewable resource.

It was also about the time demand increased. Today helium is back on the Department of the Interior’s list of elements critical to national security, and the United States is a net exporter only of helium and hafnium, used in the manufacture of control rods for nuclear reactors.

Helium’s modern applications come from the fact that it wants very little to do even with other helium atoms. This makes it very stable and very useful in the aerospace industry for guiding missiles, purging fuel lines and pressurizing tanks. It also keeps air bubbles out of fiber optics during manufacture.

Those small atoms and very weak attractive forces between them result in the lowest boiling point of the permanent gases, making it fantastic at cooling things to extremely low temperatures, Liquid helium is used to cool superconducting magnets to just above absolute zero (-452 degrees Fahrenheit) in applications ranging from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to the Large Hadron Collider.

Congress amended the act in 2013, switching to selling off a portion of the reserve each year to the highest bidder. Despite an approximately $430,000 daily profit, a 2015 Government Accountability Office study found the 2013 act continued to discourage competition in new ways. 2018’s auction went to one company, Pennsylvania-based Air Products. The company also purchased 77% of 2017’s auction.

The future of helium worldwide remains unclear. The federal government is committed to completing the disposal of the Federal Helium System, including the reserve, gas fields, pipeline and all infrastructure by September 2021. Political turmoil in Qatar, the other major source of helium producing natural gas, has also disrupted the industry in recent years.

More On This

How is helium made? | HowStuffWorks

If you put helium in a balloon and let go of the balloon, the balloon will rise until it reaches a height of just under 33,000 feet (10 kilometers), at which point it will burst because the atmospheric pressure and the strength of the balloon’s skin won’t be enough to withstand the pressure of the gas inside it [source: BBC Science Focus].

The helium that escapes is lighter than the other gases in the atmosphere, so has no reason to stop — it just keeps going and leaks out into space. That’s why there’s only a trace amount of helium — 0.0005 percent — in the atmosphere at any given time [source: Jefferson Lab].

Helium is abundant in space, where it’s produced as a product of the fusion reaction inside stars such as the sun. The naturally occurring helium on Earth, though, comes from a different sort of process. Deep inside the Earth, radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium decay and turn into other elements. The byproduct of these reactions are tiny fragments called a-particles, which consist of two neutrons and two protons. Those particles pick up electrons from the environment around them and turn into helium, which gradually rises up through the crust and is emitted into the atmosphere, where it keeps rising until it gets into space [source: University of Pittsburgh].

Fortunately for us, helium also gets into the natural gas that oil and gas drillers extract from the ground for use as fuel [source: University of Pittsburgh]. That gives us a supply that we can use for blowing up balloons, as well as for a wide variety of other industrial processes, ranging from arc welding to MRIs to manufacturing silicon chips for computers. There has to be a certain amount of helium in the natural gas — at least 0.3 percent by volume – to justify all the trouble of separating it from natural gas. This is done through industrial processes that filter other impurities, such as water, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from the gas. Finally, a process called cryogenic processing is used to cool the gas and remove the methane that makes up most of it, leaving behind a crude form of helium that is about 50 to 70 percent pure, with small amounts of argon, neon and hydrogen making up the rest. Then, the crude helium is purified through another cooling and filtering process that results in a form of helium that’s more than 99 percent pure [source: NAP].

The problem is that there aren’t that many places with natural gas fields that have enough helium in them, and extracting helium is hard to do efficiently and affordably and most of it comes from just a few sources, including the U. S. government’s National Helium Reserve in Texas. With so much demand for helium for industry, there just isn’t enough to go around. That shortage has hurt businesses such as Party City, a party supplies company, which is set to close 45 of its stores in 2019 [source: Gibson].

Related Articles

Sources

  • BBC Science Focus. “How high can a helium balloon float? ” Sciencefocus.com. (May 13, 2019) https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/how-high-can-a-helium-balloon-float/
  • Gibson, Kate. “Deflated by helium shortage, Party City to close 45 stores.” CBS News. May 10, 2019. (May 13, 2019) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/party-city-helium-to-close-45-tores/
  • Jefferson Lab. “The Element Helium. ” Education.jlab.org. (May 13, 2019) https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele002.htmlNational Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “The Impact of Selling the Federal Helium Reserve. ” Nap.edu. 2000. (May 13, 2019) https://www.nap.edu/read/9860/chapter/7
  • University of Pittsburgh. “Helium: Sources and Uses.” Researchservices.pitt.edu. (May 13, 2019) https://researchservices.pitt.edu/helium/sourcesanduses

Originally Published: Apr 1, 2000

Helium Balloon and Helium Tank FAQs

Does Party City have helium?

Yes! Our stores have helium and we’re ready to inflate balloons for your next celebration. We have several options for filling balloons:

  • You can purchase select Party City balloons in store and have them inflated before you leave.
  • You can purchase uninflated Party City balloons online, then bring them to our store to have them inflated for free. (Just make sure your item says price includes helium and bring your receipt!)
  • You can also order inflated balloons online and pick-up in store or get them delivered straight to your door! Click here to learn more about balloon delivery.
  • You can purchase balloons from other stores and have them filled at Party City for a fee.

How much does it cost to get balloons filled with helium at Party City?

When you buy foil balloons from Party City, we fill them for free at the store. When you buy latex balloons from us, we can fill them in store for a small fee. You can expect the following price ranges to fill balloons with helium:

  • Foil balloons: Free!
  • Latex balloons: $0.99 to $1.29

If you purchase your balloons from another store, your local Party City can fill those with helium, too. Helium prices can vary depending on your location, so it’s a good idea to call ahead. You can expect the following price ranges for Party City to fill balloons purchased elsewhere:

  • Foil balloons: $1.99 to $15.99, depending on size.
  • Latex balloons: $0.99 to $1.29

Can I buy helium tanks at Party City?

Yes, you can! If you prefer to fill balloons yourself, we offer both small and large helium tanks that are perfect for parties or events. Our helium tanks are available for purchase online or via in-store pickup.

Where does helium come from?

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, but you won’t find it in the air. That’s because this gas is so light that it quickly rises into space. Strangely enough, the helium we find on Earth is actually trapped underground along with natural gas! Helium production is a byproduct of the natural gas industry, but there are relatively few places where helium is concentrated enough to successfully extract it. About 75 percent of the world’s supply comes from just three areas – one in Texas, one in Wyoming and one in the country of Qatar.

Why was there a helium shortage in 2019?

The helium shortage was the result of multiple factors. Production plant closures, an embargo in Qatar in 2017 and a gradual sell-off of America’s strategic helium reserves have all put pressure on the industry. This, combined with increasing global demand and other factors, led to some of the issues with the helium market.

Is helium running out permanently?

While helium is abundant throughout the universe, it is a finite resource on Earth. The helium shortage of 2019 doesn’t mean that we’ve run out, though. New sources of helium have been discovered in Africa, and companies continue to search for additional places to mine the gas. It takes time to set up a new mining operation, however, so supplies may continue to be a bit tight.

Who else uses helium?

Most people know helium thanks to its use in balloons and blimps, but this gas has a wide range of applications. One of its most important uses is in the medical field – it’s used to cool magnets in MRI machines and can be mixed with air to help people with breathing problems. Its use in scientific research includes cryogenics, particle accelerators and even space exploration. Helium is also used in military applications and in the manufacture of semiconductors and fiber optic cables.

Are there alternatives to helium filled balloons?

While there are several types of lighter-than-air gasses, only helium is safe and cost-effective enough to be used for balloons. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to bring festive fun to your party without using helium. In addition to ideas like flags, banners, streamers, pompoms and bunting, you can also use air-filled balloons to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind displays.

The Science Of Helium And Why Global Supplies Are Running Low : Short Wave : NPR

An Afghan boy sells balloons in Kabul. We shouldn’t worry about using helium for celebrations because, as one expert says, “The helium that’s used in party balloons gets everybody to care about this resource.”

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

An Afghan boy sells balloons in Kabul. We shouldn’t worry about using helium for celebrations because, as one expert says, “The helium that’s used in party balloons gets everybody to care about this resource.

Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Helium is the second-most common element in the universe, but it’s comparatively rare on Earth. It also fulfills a surprising role in everything from space exploration to quantum computing.

New discoveries, everyday mysteries and the science behind the headlines — all in about 10 minutes, every weekday. Short Wave is science for everyone, using a lot of creativity and a little humor. Subscribe to the podcast, and follow @NPRScience on Twitter.

Short Wave is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table with profiles of some of its favorite elements. Here are five things you may not have known about helium.

Helium is the only element on the planet that is a completely nonrenewable resource.

On Earth, helium is generated deep underground through the natural radioactive decay of elements such as uranium and thorium. “It takes many, many millennia to make the helium that’s here on the Earth,” says Sophia Hayes, a chemist at Washington University in St. Louis. The helium seeps up through the Earth’s crust and gets trapped in pockets of natural gas, where it can be extracted.

Like hydrogen, its immediate predecessor on the periodic table, helium is lightweight. But unlike hydrogen, it doesn’t readily combine with other elements. So, once helium reaches the surface, it can easily escape the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Other resources, such as oil and gas, may turn into pollution or be difficult to recycle. But only helium physically disappears from the planet. “It’s the one element out of the entire periodic table that escapes the Earth and goes out into outer space,” Hayes says.

America once thought helium would turn the tide of war.

During World War I, aviation was still in its infancy, and dirigibles were considered cutting-edge weapons of war. German zeppelins were the strategic weapons of their time, drifting over civilian targets and dropping bombs from their gondolas.

But zeppelins had a critical vulnerability: They were filled with highly flammable hydrogen. After a few zeppelin raids over London, British troops developed incendiary bullets that would “light up the hydrogen in the dirigibles,” says David Aubin, a professor for the history of science at Sorbonne Université in Paris.

Meanwhile, American scientists had just discovered large helium deposits in natural gas fields in places like Kansas. Aubin says the government quickly nationalized its nonflammable helium supply and rushed it to Europe to fill attack blimps.

The helium was not used before the war ended, Aubin says, but “they had thousands of cylinders filled, on the docks at New Orleans ready to be shipped to Europe in November of 1918, so it would have been used very soon.

In fact, in March of 1919, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt told The New York Times: “If the war had lasted until next spring, the British and American Governments would have sent helium-filled rigid airships over strategic points in Germany, each capable of dropping a ‘total of 10 tons or more of high explosives.”

The U.S. continued to control the world’s helium supply after the war (this is why the famous German zeppelin Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen when it exploded in 1937). And the military continued to experiment with airships until World War II, when it became clear that fixed-wing aircraft provided numerous advantages.

The U.S. Navy dirigible Akron, takes flight in 1931. Two years later, it crashed in severe weather, killing 73.

AP


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AP

The U. S. Navy dirigible Akron, takes flight in 1931. Two years later, it crashed in severe weather, killing 73.

AP

Helium was essential to the first missions to the moon.

A rocket is basically two very big tanks: In one tank is the fuel, and in the other, is the oxidizer, usually oxygen. As the fuel and oxidizer flow out of the tanks, they leave a vacuum behind, which can cause the fuel to stop flowing.

The solution is injecting another gas to push the fuel out. That gas should be lightweight, highly compressible, so it doesn’t take up much space, and unreactive, so it doesn’t mess with the fuel. Helium turns out to be perfect for the job.

Helium was used in the giant Saturn V rockets that carried Apollo astronauts into space. It was also used in the command and service module that went to the moon and in the lunar lander that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to and from the surface.

The helium used in the Apollo program actually came from the Strategic Helium Reserve outside of Amarillo, Texas. The reserve was started toward the end of World War I, as part of a government effort to maintain a strategic supply of helium.

Today, helium is high-tech

Helium is in demand today, but for very different reasons than it was in the last century. This time around, much of the demand has to do with helium’s ability to liquefy at very low temperatures — just 4.2 degrees Kelvin (−452.1 F).

“Sometimes my astrophysics colleagues tell me that the temperature of outer space is 3 Kelvin,” Hayes says. “So it’s just one degree different than the temperature of outer space, that’s how cold it is.”

Hayes runs a laboratory that uses very special materials called superconductors. Electricity can flow through these materials with no resistance at all. “That creates very, very large magnetic fields,” she says.

Hayes uses those fields to study chemical processes, but they are also used in medicine to image the human body. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, technology uses superconductors cooled by liquid helium.

The superconducting chips in Google’s Sycamore quantum computer are cooled with liquid helium.

Hannah Benet /Google


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Hannah Benet /Google

The superconducting chips in Google’s Sycamore quantum computer are cooled with liquid helium.

Hannah Benet /Google

And that’s not the only application. Superconducting bits are also at the heart of some of the most advanced quantum computers currently being developed. Google recently said one computer it developed had beaten the world’s fastest conventional computer when conducting a specialized calculation. Such “quantum supremacy,” if it continues to develop, could eventually allow intelligence agencies to crack virtually any code.

Helium in its gaseous form is also used in the fabrication of conventional electronics, and it continues to be used in rockets by cutting-edge companies like SpaceX.

But it’s also in short supply.

The world’s helium supply is still located in just a handful of countries: The United States, Algeria and Qatar. If any one of those countries experiences a problem with production, the price of helium can spike, Hayes says.

The constant volatility in helium prices is forcing researchers to reconsider how they use the gas, she says. In fact, she has been forced to mothball some of her superconducting magnets because the price is too high. She worries that unless the price volatility can be brought under control, research in a variety of important areas will be curtailed or even abandoned.

Other nations, including Russia and South Africa, are mulling getting into the helium production business, which may help alleviate the periodic shortages. Until they do, should average people give up their helium balloons? Hayes says no: “I am not a balloon denier. The helium that’s used in party balloons gets everybody to care about this resource.”

Bargain Balloons. Helium Balloons for Less

Discount Foil Helium
Balloons

All foil helium balloons 18″ and
larger and

latex helium balloons 12″ and larger can be filled with helium
and will float as a result.  Helium is an odorless,
tasteless, colorless and non toxic element and is the second
lightless element.  Helium is also the second most abundant
element in the universe so you might think it would be cheaper to
purchase, but on earth helium is relatively rare.  Since
helium is lighter than air when you fill a helium balloon with
helium it floats.   Foil helium balloons float for 4-21days,
while latex balloons float for only 8-24 hours (however you can
use
hi-float to extend the life by 25x so you can get them to
float longer than a foil balloon). 

 

The reason that foil helium
balloons float longer is because the membrane of the foil helium
balloon allows for the escape of fewer helium molecules so the
rate at which they escape from a foil helium balloon versus a
latex helium balloon is less.  A
product
called Hi-Float exists that you can use to coat the inside of
a latex helium balloon to extend the life of a latex helium
balloon.   This coating is non toxic and forms a barrier
inside the latex helium balloon which helps stop the helium from
escaping.   This coating with extend the floating time of a
latex helium balloon.  Using
ultra
hi-float and you may see float times of 1-8 weeks.








Helium Balloon Chart

Common Sizes listed
below.

18″ Foil (Mylar)
Helium Balloons
0.50 Cubic Feet
Jumbo Foil (Mylar)
Helium Balloons
1-2.5 Cubic Feet
9″ Latex Helium
Balloons
0.25 Cubic Feet
11″ Latex Helium
Balloons
0.50 Cubic Feet
17
Latex Helium Balloons
2 Cubic Foot
3 Foot (inflated to
2.5-3 foot)
8-15 Cubic Foot


What is Helium and Why is There a Global Helium Shortage?

Helium. Arguably one of the most essential elements in our daily lives, while also simultaneously being largely ignored by society at large. That is except for when it comes to its most minor of uses as a lifting gas for balloons and blimps. And why on earth is there a shortage of it – especially considering that it’s one of the most abundant gases in the universe?

But first, a little background knowledge about helium. This colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas is non-toxic, inert, and monatomic. For the non-scientists in the room (like myself), that means it’s safe to consume, has low chemical reactivity, and possesses a single atom. For these reasons, it’s also considered to be one of the ‘noble gases’, alongside neon, argon, and others with similar properties. It also has the lowest boiling point of any element and can’t be solidified by lowering the temperature. This characteristic is why it’s super popular as a cooling source in MRIs and electronics.

Norman Lockyer, British scientist and astronomer is one of the two scientists credited with discovering helium. It happened when he observed a yellow line in a spectrum taken near the edge of the sun. This line couldn’t be explained using any of the materials known at the time, so it was suggested to Lockyer that he had perhaps encountered something new. He then called his element helium, named after the word ‘helios’ which was Greek for ‘sun’. 🌞

There are a number of common uses for helium gas in our daily lives that we’re oftentimes not even aware of:

  • As a cooling medium for magnets and processes in MRI scanners
  • Detecting leaks in air conditioning systems
  • Scanning barcodes at checkouts using helium-neon gas lasers
  • Preventing bubbles from getting trapped inside of fiber optic internet cables during development
  • Breathing mixtures for deep undersea diving
  • The cooling and processing of silicon during the creation of semiconductor chips

These are just a few of the many places that helium touches our daily lives – demonstrating just how important it really is. Curious about some of its other uses? Take a look at our blog exploring the most essential (and underappreciated) uses of helium. 

Where does Helium come from?

Though extremely abundant in space, the helium that we use in our daily lives can be found in a few much more terrestrial, and limited, sources. Helium is so much more abundant in space because it is lighter than other gases in the atmosphere, which means that there is nothing stopping it as it travels into space. It is also produced directly in space where it is a product of the fusion reaction occurring within stars like the sun.

 

In terms of helium remaining within our planet, it is created as a result of other changes happening below the crust of the earth. When radioactive elements like uranium and thorium decay, they create by-products – including tiny fragments known as ‘a-particles’, which are made up of two neutrons and two protons. These a-particles then take electrons from the environment and turn them into helium, which rises through the earth’s crust and into the atmosphere until it reaches space [1].

Some of the helium that doesn’t escape through the earth’s crust becomes part of the natural gas fields that are already there. This means that there is the opportunity in some cases for it to be separated from the natural gas that we’re already extracting. However, this is an expensive and inefficient process, so the number of natural gas fields that have enough helium and processing power present to make it worthwhile is small.

A natural gas field

The extraction process starts with natural gas that is at least 0.3% helium by volume. It then undergoes a number of industrial processes that filter impurities like water, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide from the gas. The resulting gas then undergoes cryogenic processing to cool the gas and remove methane from it, resulting in a helium that is about 50-70% pure. It then is put through one more final cooling and filtering process that leads to the helium that we see today – one that is just about 99% pure [2].

Helium and the BLM

Because the US is the world’s largest producer of helium, it’s no surprise that the government has been involved in its maintenance and distribution. In 1925, the US Congress passed the Helium Act of 1925, which aimed to stockpile helium for the use in blimps in the war effort via:

  1. The creation of the National Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas.
  2. Banning the export of Helium.

Interestingly, these together are regarded by many as one of the indirect causes of the Hindenburg Disaster of 1937. The US monopoly on helium caused a shortage, forcing others to turn to using highly-flammable hydrogen as their lifting gas.

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees the remaining government helium reserves, which as of October 1st 2019, contained 2,809,679 Mcf. This supplies over 40% of domestic demand for helium. The BLM also evaluates existing helium-bearing gas fields for the extraction and disposal of the gas.

The Helium Acts Amendments of 1960 gave the green light for the US Bureau of Mines to allocate five private plants to recover helium from natural gas to be stored in the National Helium Reserve. There, it can be compressed at the surface and stored, thanks to a thick layer of salt keeping the gas in place. By 1995, it had contributed to the storage of a billion cubic meters of the gas, but the reserve itself was $1.4B in debt, leading to the Helium Privatization Act of 1996, which ultimately led to the sale of helium on the open market.

The Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 was enacted to deal with the helium supply as we know it in today’s environment. This act worked to implement the following:

  • Continued free market access to Federal crude helium
  • Transparency of information related to the Federal Helium reserve
  • Creating of a global helium assessment that forecasts supply and demand
  • Establishment of helium extraction, separation, and conservation programs

To learn more about how the BLM is managing our helium reserves, visit their page on Federal Helium Operations.

A Few Other Helium Reserves

Though the US is the largest terrestrial known source of natural gas and helium, it is not the only country globally with reserves. Behind the US, are Algeria and Qatar, respectively, in terms of recoverable helium. In the early 2000s, helium plants were built in Skikda, Algeria and Ras Laffam, Qatar. Researchers also recently found a helium field in Tanzania’s Rift Valley, which is currently estimated to measure around 54 billion cubic feet [3].

Algeria

Why is There a Helium Shortage?

The current helium shortage that we have today is the result of a number of factors, both directly related to the gas supply itself and also because of the economic factors surrounding it. The current helium shortage that we’re experiencing is considered by many within the industry to be the third shortage in the last 14 years.

Though we had previously stockpiled it as part of the war effort, the later decision by former President Bill Clinton to sign into law the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 changed that with its requirement that the US government sell off its supply by 2015. The idea was that the private market could figure out where the helium would be best used, but instead it kept the price of helium artificially low relative to its scarcity, leading to the rapid sale of much of the gas.

Combine this with the fact that much of the world’s usable helium is obtained through natural gas extraction and you’ve got a perfect storm for a shortage.

What’s Next?

If you’ve been following any of the media coverage surrounding helium, you might have heard rumblings about how Party City will be closing 45 locations, partially because of falling balloon sales. While balloons are probably the least important use of helium, they are something of a canary in the coal mine for other businesses – especially given that the BLM reserves are on track to depletion by 2021 [4].

Though some industries and scientific communities are trying to encourage the recycling of helium, which while may help to relieve a bit of the burden, it’s not enough alone. Ambitious capitalists are taking notice though, and natural gas supply chains are increasingly looking to integrate helium extraction into their processes for large projects. Qatar and Russia are also exploring opportunities within their own natural gas fields to extract and sell helium.

 

If becoming a helium mogul isn’t on your horizon this time around, you might be considering what you can do to ensure the long term longevity of your business if it relies on helium in order to carry out essential tasks. While we can’t give you a 100% foolproof plan for how to prepare for a helium shortage, we can tell you this: businesses around the world and across industries are digging in to find solutions before it’s too late. And as of this writing, the outlook from the United States Geological Survey is that: “By the end of the decade, international helium extraction facilities are likely to become the main source of supply for world helium users.” [5]

So in other words, while helium supply is unlikely to totally run out, your favorite Thanksgiving Day parade floats might be grounded. But at least you’ll still be able to get an MRI or be sure that your favorite electronics will have those ever-essential semiconductor chips. But it could be about to get way more expensive.

Need helium in California now? We can help. Contact us to inquire about availability and pricing.

 

REFERENCES:

[1] https://researchservices.pitt.edu/helium/sourcesanduses

[2] https://www.nap.edu/read/9860/chapter/7

[3] https://interestingengineering.com/there-is-a-world-wide-shortage-of-helium

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/21/helium-shortage-why-the-worlds-supply-is-drying-up.html

[5] https://prd-wret.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/assets/palladium/production/s3fs-public/atoms/files/mcs-2019-heliu.pdf

Balloon Time Jumbo Helium Kit (50 Balloons)

Balloon Time® Jumbo Helium Kit (50 Balloons) comes complete with 50 colorful balloons and helium tank. This kit contains everything you need to create an extra special celebration. You’ll have everything you need to design and execute the perfect party.

Take Your Next Party Up a Level

Free floating helium balloons add a magical, special, professional touch to any party or celebration. Instead of renting a tank or buying a high volume of helium balloons, why not customize your experience and your event with your own helium kit? You’ll get 50 balloons with this kit, but you may want to customize your party or event by choosing particular colors. There are countless festive uses:

  • Celebratory parades
  • Birthday parties and anniversaries
  • Proms and homecoming dances

How Many Balloons Does the Balloon Time Jumbo Helium Kit Make?

With 14.9 cubic feet of helium/air mixture, the tank will fill up the following balloon types and quantities

  • 50, 9″ latex helium balloons
  • 27, 11″ latex helium balloons
  • 27, 18″ foil/Mylar helium balloons

You’ll choose different types and sizes of balloons depending on the design of your party and how long you wish the balloons to last. Use up all the included helium in this helium kit at once for many balloons or multiple times for smaller balloon bouquets. Latex balloons will float for 5-7 hours and foil balloons wil last approximately 4 days. Buy different shapes or sizes to create floating balloon animals.

Is the Balloon Time Jumbo Helium Kit Safe to Use and Dispose of?

The Balloon Time Jumbo Helium Kit comes with clear instructions and the manufacturer’s website includes several helpful videos on how to use the tank, fill balloons and safely dispose of the helium kit when you’re done.

To use the tank, you’ll loosen the valve, attach the balloons and safely fill them according to the instructions conveniently located on the side of the tank. You’ll never be in doubt about how to properly inflate your balloons.

All balloon tanks are recyclable and the product comes with instructions on how to safely dispose of the tank. You’ll need a hammer, flathead screwdriver, safety goggles and a permanent marker.

 

*Over-inflated latex balloons will stretch and allow helium to pass through and will reduce the number of balloons stated on the package. 

*Balloons are expected to float for 5-7 hours, when filled to the proper size.

Why helium is chosen for inflating balloons and why helium balloons fly

Helium inflated balloons are a colorful accessory that creates an atmosphere of celebration and fun. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous sellers fill balloons with low-quality, and sometimes completely hazardous gas. Why balloons with helium fly, how to distinguish low-quality helium and what other gases can lift balloons into the air – read the article.

Features and properties of helium

To lift a balloon of foil or latex into the air, the gas filling it must be much lighter than air.Helium is seven times lighter than air, so it is ideal for these purposes. This gas is extracted from oil and natural sources. Filling balloons is just one of the ways to use helium, probably the most fun and uncomplicated one. In fact, helium is in great demand, and its use for scientific and medical purposes is of great benefit.

What properties does helium have? It is absolutely inert, does not react with any known chemical, non-toxic, non-flammable.It is odorless and colorless; it rises in the air and dissolves in the upper balls of the atmosphere. According to Russian and European fire safety standards, when inflating balloons, it is allowed to use only gases such as helium and ordinary air. If helium
ball
bursts, which is found everywhere – it does not pose a threat to the life and health of people nearby.

What else balloons are inflated

What other gas, besides helium, can lift latex and foil balloons into the air? There is only one such gas – hydrogen.By its mass, hydrogen is the lightest of all known gases, with helium taking the second place by a small margin. All other gases are much heavier and will not work if your goal is to make the balloon fly.

However, hydrogen is strikingly different in its chemical properties from helium: it is very active, extremely explosive and flammable. Now imagine what would happen if you fill an ordinary balloon with hydrogen? It would be extremely dangerous for the life and health of those around.

How to recognize high quality helium

If you want to buy helium cylinders for business or for private use, we advise you not to be seduced by the cheapness, trusting dubious sellers. The fact that the cylinders he sells have the word “helium” written on it is not enough. In fact, anything can be there. Often unscrupulous sellers dilute helium with air, neon, and nitrogen.

Helium grades A and B – ideal for filling balloons.Helium grade A is very high quality and pure, therefore it is used for medical purposes. The price for it is correspondingly higher. Helium of grade B is no worse, and its price is much lower, therefore it is it that is most often used for foil and latex balloons.

When buying cylinders with helium, always check the seller’s documents for the goods, inquire about the origin of the cylinders, try to find out about the company’s reputation on the Internet.

Is it harmful to inhale helium?

Is it harmful to inhale helium?

Very often, while having fun, people inhale helium from balloons.

As you know, this gas can compress the vocal cords and the voice changes for a while, while a person begins to talk funny in a high-pitched cartoon character.

Aeromagic design studio aeromagic.ks.ua/ invites you to ask yourself a question: is it safe to inhale helium , will it have a negative effect on our body? After all, it turns out, and in fact – breathing only helium is harmful!

Let’s figure it out:

  • Helium is a non-toxic gas that is present in the atmosphere of our planet, but if a person finds himself in a space filled with helium, he will quickly suffocate.

As you know, in order to breathe we need oxygen, which is contained in any breathing mixture in an amount of at least 16%, and best of all 21%.

As for the “flying” balloons: they contain 99.8% of technical helium, and if you breathe only it for a long time, you can also suffocate!

And yet: usually they do not breathe helium from the balloons for a long time, but only take small breaths and, moreover, it manages to mix with the air.Is it harmful to inhale helium in this case?

As m found out:

  • Inhalation of pure helium deprives the body of oxygen.

We can say that there are about the same processes as when holding your breath, but we know that an organism deprived of oxygen dies within a couple of minutes.

You might argue: no one has ever died just holding their breath!

Yes, it is, but if we hold our breath, we deprive ourselves of such an important process as inhalation, and our brain immediately reacts, signaling us to fill our lungs.

We can consciously suppress this reflex (for example, when we dive under water), but still there comes a moment when the instinct of self-preservation, which is not subject to consciousness, makes us breathe in deeply. In an airless space and under water, this leads to death.

In the case of helium, the situation is different. The breath is there, and the lungs are filled.

The brain “has no formal reason” to include the self-preservation mechanism. In fact, we are deceiving him by “slipping” another gas instead of oxygen.

But oxygen must be taken from somewhere, therefore with each breath, when helium fills the lungs, the body intensively consumes oxygen accumulated in the blood and tissues.

Thus, the total oxygen level in the body is reduced in a matter of seconds.

If you summarize all the side effects of inhalation of helium, you get something like this:

  • Some people may show all signs of oxygen starvation – headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath; as mentioned, most inhale helium to change their tone of voice.
  • The vocal cords in helium oscillate at a higher frequency, which causes a similar effect, but as a result of this there is a (small, but there is) chances (small, but there is) their to damage (significantly or insignificantly).
  • Frequent and very deep breaths of helium, possibly, can provoke the appearance of helium bubbles in the blood , which, when they reach the brain, can cause a stroke and even, sadly, in rare cases, lead to death.
  • A simple oversaturation of the lungs with helium may also turn out to be unsafe, when the oxygen content in the body will be significantly reduced .

These, as it turned out, there are dangers of inhalation of helium, and in addition to what has been said, it can be added that pampering with an inert gas is especially dangerous for pregnant women and not only for the expectant mother herself, but also for her child. Therefore, it is better for them to just admire the light balls, but not try to inhale the gas they contain.

Still, if you want to know how to safely and safely inhale helium, we recommend:

Our advice on how to properly inhale helium from a balloon

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A wide selection of helium for balloons in portable balloons at an affordable price

In addition to various festive paraphernalia, we offer to buy helium for balloons.This is an advantageous offer not only for retail outlets, but also for your own use. Helium in a portable container does not deteriorate, the product does not take up much space, the main thing is to strictly follow the recommendations for proper storage. We also have professional helium cylinders for balloons of 5, 10 and 40 liters. The product is certified and has all the necessary accompanying documents. The products strictly comply with TU 51-940-80.

Helium balloons for balloons

We offer you helium balloons for balloons.The price includes only the cost of gas. The cylinder itself gives for use at the collateral value. If you have your own that meets all the standardization criteria, you can bring it in replacement.

Helium belongs to non-toxic gases, it is inert, has a specific gravity much less than air, which is why balloons inflated with it can fly. It holds well in the cylinder, but it seeps through the wall of elastic materials, therefore, when choosing balls for filling, it is necessary to take into account their gas tightness.

5 liters will be enough for a gift shop, a gift wrapping point with low traffic, when for mass events, holidays with a large number of people, it is better to take 10 liters, and in some cases think about the largest volume.

Helium gas in a portable cylinder

New is helium in a portable cylinder. This is a low-pressure container weighing about 3 kg and a fairly compact size. This device is suitable for inflating both foil and latex balloons.

Recently, helium in a portable cylinder is increasingly bought for home use. It is enough to allocate a small place in the far corner of a dry, relatively cool pantry, and your child is provided with joy at any time. One balloon is enough to inflate 15 rather large and 30 small balloons.

These cylinders are very easy to use and do not require any special additional gas equipment. Even a teenager can cope with the inflation of the balloon.

Buy helium for balloons

We offer to buy helium for balloons in various packaging. So both private clients and organizations will be able to solve their problems with maximum economic benefit. For regular customers, we are always ready to offer pleasant discounts and more favorable conditions.

Contact! We will be happy to help!

Lifting force of helium. How many helium balloons do you need to pick up a toy, a postcard, or a chocolate bar?

Lift force of helium.How many helium balloons do you need to pick up a toy, a postcard, or a chocolate bar?

Lift force of helium. How many helium balloons do you need to pick up a toy, a postcard, or a chocolate bar? These questions are often asked by our customers. Calculating the number of balloons is quite simple, you need to know the exact weight of the product, which must be lifted with helium balloons. You also need to clearly understand the task: the product needs to be lifted indoors or outdoors, how long does it take for the entire structure to be in the air?

The first approximate calculation is as follows: 1m3 of helium raises about 1 kg.Or 1 standard ball 27cm in diameter only lifts 3-4 grams. So, for example, to lift a toy weighing 250 grams, you need 250/4 = about 62 balls, in practice 50 pieces are enough, because even the tape on the ball has a weight and can be shortened. When you buy a gift, as a rule, it is not difficult to find a scale somewhere nearby and weigh it in order to understand whether your idea is real. At our outlet for the sale of helium balloons, you can raise a gift with the help of balloons, having previously calculated the required amount according to the above principle to understand the costs, and in practice, inflate the balloons to the desired result.

Larger weights are cheaper to lift with large helium balloons, because the weight of one large balloon is less than the weight of a large number of small helium balloons with the same volume of helium. It is possible to calculate the lifting force of a large ball by conventionally calculating the volume of helium in such a ball according to the formula 4/3 nr3 and then applying the principle of 1 m3 of helium, approximately 1 kg of weight. For example, we take a ball 1 m in diameter. We get the formula for the volume of the ball 4/3 * 3.14 * 0.53 = 0.522m3, which is respectively equal to about 0.5 kg. From this weight, it is necessary to subtract the weight of the ball itself and the weight of the ribbon for which it is hooked, this will be the estimated weight that can be lifted with this ball in the room.On the street, such calculations are difficult to do, because the helium balloon can constantly be affected by weather conditions: snow, rain, wind, sun, or vice versa, low temperature.

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