By: Maddie G.
Outside of our planet Earth, there is plenty of helium present; it is a big part of the gas that makes up Jupiter. After all, besides hydrogen, helium is the most abundant element in the universe. However, on Earth, it is more difficult to find and keep. Helium has always been in endless supply, beginning from when it was released deep underground during radioactive decay of the elements that formed Earth, but it’s becoming more and more scarce. Estimates show that the Earth’s subterranean supply, found along with natural gas deposits, will be gone in 40 to 60 years. Also, even though helium is in the Earth’s atmosphere, there is no effective way that is exists to separate it from other gases in the air. However, the largest problem is that there is no substitute for helium; it is the most stable element. Helium will not react with other elements, and it won’t burn. It is an essential part of semiconductors, fiber optics, welders, rocket launchers, cryogenics, computer drives, and cooling MRI machines (one of its most critical uses accounting for 22% annually). The present Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s part in the helium picture is that this week, the departments store’s annual order was an estimated 400,000 cubic feet of helium to fill up their balloons for the festivities. This helium was transported from a plant in Otis, Kansas, to Middlesex, New Jersey where it was converted into gas, and then driven to New York City. This was a supply to fill 15 gigantic balloons, which were inflated on Wednesday night, and topped off Thursday morning. Of course the use of helium in this event is not helping with its dwindling supply, but the parade uses a very small percentage of the 6.4 billion cubic feet of helium used annually all around the world. (Read more…)