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Codebreaker

What helium means in a world of screens

author198 Aug 25, 2010
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Nobel laureate and Cornell University physics professor Robert Richardson has a warning about helium.  The world is running out of it. And that could mean a lot to the tech world.

He says, “It will be impossible to have MRI machines without the liquid helium to cool the magnets.”

Helium is also used in fiberoptic cables – it helps keep the signals strong.  All those screens in our lives? The LCD screens – those need helium, too.  We need helium for telescopes and NASA uses it to clean out rocket engines.

Richardson co-chaired an inquiry into the world’s dwindling helium supply.  He just published a report recommending the price of helium go up 20-50 fold.  That would make it worthwhile for people to recover and recycle helium. And it would make balloons very expensive.

How We Survive
How We Survive
Climate change is here. Experts say we need to adapt. This series explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the changes ahead.