Helium shortage would have worse effects than just a lack of party balloons

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PISCATAWAY -

A shortage of helium would have worst effects on the world besides just a lack of party balloons, according to one Rutgers University instructor.

The gas is used to operate MRI machines, airbags, machinery and in the space industry.

“We use it a lot. Helium is used quite a bit in physics experiments, of course. But mostly for those MRI machines that are very important to our health,” says Dave Maiullo, who works in the Physics Department at Rutgers.

Maiullo uses helium when demonstrating experiments at the university, as well as in his stage show, “That Physics Show.” He says short supply and high demand is making helium a lot more expensive. It already forced them to shut down some of the experiments and research at Rutgers.

“You don't want a time period where you can't get the substances you need to actually operate your experiment. And thinking about someone needs an MRI right away, well let’s say you don't have the helium to operate that machine - that would be pretty awful,” Maiullo says.

Most helium in the U.S. comes from a depleting reserve in Texas. There are other helium sources on the plant, but it could be years before it is available for use.

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