Scientists have discovered a large helium gas field in Tanzania. With world supplies running out, the find is a “game-changer“, say geologists at Durham and Oxford universities. Helium is used in hospitals in MRI scanners as well as in spacecraft, telescopes and radiation monitors. Until now, the precious gas has been discovered only in small quantities during oil and gas drilling. Using a new explorationapproach, researchers found large quantities of helium within the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley. They say resources in just one part of the Rift valley are enough to fill more than a million medical MRI scanners.
Helium is formed by the slow and steady radioactive decay of terrestrial rock. However, global supplies are running low, with warnings that supplies cannot be guaranteed in the long term.
What helium is used for
It is used in the space industry to keep satellite instruments cool, to clean out rocket engines and was used to cool the liquid oxygen and hydrogen that powered the Apollo space vehicles
Helium is used as a cooling medium for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners
Helium is often used to fill party balloons, weather balloons and airships because of its low density
A mixture of 80% helium and 20% oxygen is used by deep-sea divers and others working under pressurised conditions.
Helium-neon gas lasers are used to scan barcodes at supermarket checkouts