This week we learn that another element is running out – to join the debates about Peak Oil, Peak Lithium and pretty much Peak Everything else, we now have Peak Helium to contend with.

1996 Nobel laureate Professor Robert Richardson from Cornell University, interviewed in this week’s New Scientist magazine, has warned that we could run out in 25 to 30 years.  While Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, it cannot be manufactured artificially and is difficult to collect.  Most of the Helium which leaks out as the earth’s crust decays simply floats off through the atmosphere and into space.

“Liquid helium is critical for cooling infrared detectors, nuclear reactors and the machinery of wind tunnels. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and NASA uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets,” reports Steve Connor in The Independent.

Richardson argues that one of the main issues lies in the price of Helium which he believes is between 20 and 50 times too cheap.  By his calculations, helium filled party balloons should cost around $100 (£67) reflecting the true value of the precious non-renewable resource they contain.

26th August 2010