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A shortage of helium is causing delays in scientific research
May 31, 2022

A shortage of helium is causing delays in scientific research

Helium is a finite natural resource used in health care, tech, manufacturing and research. But researchers are finding themselves at the bottom of the waiting list.

There’s at least one natural resource out there that’s completely finite on Earth: helium. And once we use it up, it’s gone for good.

The lighter-than-air gas is in especially short supply right now, thanks to the closure of a major domestic processing facility and disruptions at a couple of plants overseas.

That’s not just a problem for birthday balloons — a number of industries compete for the limited supply of helium: health care, manufacturing, the tech sector and scientific research.

But those researchers are often at the back of the helium line.

Note: This story was originally heard on “Marketplace.” You can read the web version here.

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The team

Michael Lipkin Senior Producer
Stephanie Hughes Producer
Jesus Alvarado Assistant Producer