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World running out of helium - so make some with a DPF
Posted: 28 November 2012 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Seems the world is running of out helium. Much of it comes from caves in Texas.

It could be worthwhile manufacturing helium in a Dense Plasma Focus.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T121126003658.htm

Helium shortage being felt / Disney Resort, hospital MRIs affected by lack of rare gas
Fukutaro Yamashita and Hironari Akiyama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers


A shortage of helium caused by increasing demand in emerging countries including China and India is beginning to affect Japan.

Tokyo Disney Resort has suspended sales of Disney-character balloons, and at least one hospital has suspended use of magnetic resonance imaging.

Helium is a rare resource mined as a byproduct in a limited number of natural gas fields in such places as the United States. Often used as a coolant because it has the lowest boiling point of all elements, the gas is used in the production of semiconductors and optical fibers. It is also used in MRIs and for low-temperature experiments.

Oriental Land Co., the operator of Tokyo Disney Resort in Chiba Prefecture, stopped selling its character balloons on Wednesday because it had difficulty procuring the gas. This is the first time it has suspended sales of the balloons, which have been very popular among children since the amusement park opened in 1983. It has not decided when to resume balloon sales, the company said.

In hospitals, liquid helium is used to cool electromagnets inside MRI machines when scanning patients’ bodies. A source at the hospital that suspended use of MRIs said finding substitute material may take some time, considering the nature and price of helium.

A gas wholesaler in Saitama Prefecture said its helium stock ran out in mid-November and that there would not be any available for shipment for a while.

===

All helium imported

Only about five nations have natural gas fields that can also produce helium. World production was about 168 million cubic meters in 2010.

Although Japan’s demand is a little less than 10 percent of world demand, it relies totally on imports, 95 percent of which come from the United States. The United States accounts for about 75 percent of world production.

According to Iwatani Corp., a major liquefied petroleum gas company, the annual helium demand in Japan is about 13 million cubic meters. More than 40 percent of that amount is used for industrial applications such as optical fiber production, and less than 30 percent is used for MRIs in hospitals.

Since 2000, demand for helium for both industrial and hospital use mainly in emerging countries such as China and India has rapidly increased. This has resulted in an at least threefold increase in helium prices in the last decade, greatly increasing the cost of semiconductor production, which relies heavily on helium.

===

Calls for government help

Furthermore, due to an accident at a helium production facility in the United States, the supply-demand balance has been very tight since July, according to an Iwatani division chief. The situation may not improve until next spring at the earliest, observers say.

Meanwhile, the production of shale gas, a low-cost natural gas, is expected to grow in the United States. However, not much helium is expected from the deep underground shale layers from which shale gas is extracted. Therefore, many predict that the situation can only become worse in the medium or long term.

LP gas firms in Japan plan to expand procurement from other nations, such as Qatar, starting next year. Some voices in the industry are calling for the central government to take measures to deal with the shortage.

(Nov. 27, 2012)

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Posted: 28 November 2012 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hmmmm.  Lets do the math.

PF reactor will produce a net of 66 kJ per shot according to Sankey diagram on LPP website.  With 8.7 MeV/reaction, that requires, 4.75E16 reactions per shot to produce the fusion energy.  Each reaction produces 3 helium atoms so 1.4E17 atoms per shot.  You fire 200 shots per second giving you 2.8E19 atoms per second.  For reference, your average helium tank in party store for balloons holds 300 cubic feet or 8.5 cubic meters of helium at standard pressure and temperature.  The standard pressure and temperature density of helium is 2.7E25 atoms/m^3.  The total number of atoms to fill the bottle is 2.3E26 atoms.  Using the production rate, it will take more than 90 days to fill a single bottle from a 5 MW PF reactor as proposed by LPP.  I can’t speak for anyone else but we use a helium bottle every month and we are a very small lab.  You would probably be able to produce the world’s total electricity needs many times over before you could produce enough helium to sustain the current demand.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I forgot that the number of generators to get 2.3 TW (mean electrical demand in US) is huge at 5 MW per generator or 460,000 generators.  If they are running all the time you can produce about 8% of the helium used in the US in 2008 (193 million standard cubic meters).  I couldn’t find a newer number in my five minute hunt.  Not enough to get from A to B but it would help if helium recycling efforts step up.  You need something like 7-10X the electrical power output in the US to supply the helium using p+11B reaction.  Not easy to do given that electrical demand and helium demand are both rising.  If helium recycling is implemented and wasteful uses of helium are eliminated, it might be possible for LPP to produce a significant amount of helium say 30%.  The real savior would be high temp superconductors as the biggest single He user is for superconducting MRI machines according to Wikipedia.  That would cut out 22% of the helium demand alone.

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Posted: 28 November 2012 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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asymmetric_implosion - 28 November 2012 01:21 PM

Hmmmm.  Lets do the math.

PF reactor will produce a net of 66 kJ per shot according to Sankey diagram on LPP website.  With 8.7 MeV/reaction, that requires, 4.75E16 reactions per shot to produce the fusion energy.  Each reaction produces 3 helium atoms so 1.4E17 atoms per shot.  You fire 200 shots per second giving you 2.8E19 atoms per second.  For reference, your average helium tank in party store for balloons holds 300 cubic feet or 8.5 cubic meters of helium at standard pressure and temperature.  The standard pressure and temperature density of helium is 2.7E25 atoms/m^3.  The total number of atoms to fill the bottle is 2.3E26 atoms.  Using the production rate, it will take more than 90 days to fill a single bottle from a 5 MW PF reactor as proposed by LPP.  I can’t speak for anyone else but we use a helium bottle every month and we are a very small lab.  You would probably be able to produce the world’s total electricity needs many times over before you could produce enough helium to sustain the current demand.

Yeah, without having done the math myself, I ballparked this problem this way.  Nuclear reactions are just beyond our natural comprehension directly in the ratio of mass to energy.  That leaves the question: where CAN we get helium?  It seems like prices are naturally going to drive birthday balloons out of business in a few decades, and recycling refrigerants is a natural choice.  What else can we do?

Fracking solved the natural gas problem for a few decades, but I believe fracking doesn’t get much helium like traditional natural gas wells do.  What can we actually do about one of the least renewable elements on earth?

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Posted: 28 November 2012 08:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It sounds like we better get cracking on the development of Fo-Fu-1 as a fast rocket propulsion system, so we can begin mining Helium from Jupiter!:)

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Posted: 29 November 2012 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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benf - 28 November 2012 08:54 PM

It sounds like we better get cracking on the development of Fo-Fu-1 as a fast rocket propulsion system, so we can begin mining Helium from Jupiter!:)

Could a FoFu 1 generate enough power to reach escape velocity from Jupiter’s gravity well?  I know conventional rockets wouldn’t be able to manage the lift.

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Posted: 29 November 2012 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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ikanreed - 29 November 2012 02:14 PM

Could a FoFu 1 generate enough power to reach escape velocity from Jupiter’s gravity well?  I know conventional rockets wouldn’t be able to manage the lift.

It’d have to be “touch and go”... like an unsuccessful aerobraking maneuver.

That way you’d keep most of your orbital velocity and could use a high efficiency in-space drive.

The question is how deep would you have to dive into the mostly-hydrogen exosphere to be able to scoop up usable amounts of helium.

Be a wild trip to pilot…

The #1 reality show of 2105: “Jovescoop Drivers!”

 

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Posted: 29 November 2012 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s also worth noting that any future FoFu generators are likely to *use* helium, as a coolant flowing through a beryllium anode—While this would be continuously recycled, it still represents a demand that might cancel out the new helium fused into existence ;-D

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Posted: 29 November 2012 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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To the Moon!

The upper Lunar soil (regolith) is said to have 28 parts per million Helium-4
Compared to the 156 ppm of deuterium per atom of hydrogen in ocean water,... which we were all set to extract.

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Posted: 30 November 2012 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The moom has helium in the parts per *billion* range.

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Posted: 30 November 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yeah, I wouldn’t want to see the moon with a sad face mad

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Posted: 30 November 2012 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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delt0r - 30 November 2012 08:17 AM

The moom has helium in the parts per *billion* range.

Nope, that’s helium -3.

In lunar regolith helium-4 is measured in ppm. Depending on the figures you use there might be over 450 million tons of helium available for mining on the moon.

Aneutronic fusion would enable us to do just that.

That would solve our (deliberately engineered) helium shortage for about forever. And with pB11 aneutronic fusion we wouldn’t care about how much of the total bulk of He was helium-3… although I’m quite sure that sundry labs and industries would happily pay to separate some of that 3He out for various purposes.

In comparison to the lunar regolith, Jupiter’s outer atmosphere would be a mother lode of helium if you can get to it and scoop ii out of the atmosphere… and we will definitely need fusion-powered ships for that smile

 

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Posted: 30 November 2012 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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benf - 30 November 2012 11:53 AM

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to see the moon with a sad face mad

On average helium-4 is 28 ppm of lunar regolith. 3He is from 1 to 50 ppb and is not considered further here. 

About 1.07 billion metric tons of regolith would need to be processed to yield the 30,000 tons of helium mined on Earth annually.

Earthside mining handles vastly more material than than that annually and that’s in a fragile ecosystem… unfortunately.

“The smallest lunar features we can distinguish with the naked eye are about 200 km across.”

And regolith is about 3 tons per cubic meter. A reasonable depth for mining would be about 4 meters. So a trench 1000 meters wide and 1000 meters long and 4 meters deep would yield 4,000,000 cubic meters or 12,000,000 tons of material which in turn yields ~336 tons of 4He.

A trench a kilometer wide and about 90 kilometers long processed and refilled for each year?

... and the lunar surface area is 37.8 million square km.

The folks on Earth looking up will notice lunar space stations and perhaps lights from the surface installations of lunar cities and not much else.

 

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Posted: 30 November 2012 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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zapkitty - 30 November 2012 05:56 PM
benf - 30 November 2012 11:53 AM

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to see the moon with a sad face mad

The folks on Earth looking up will notice lunar space stations and perhaps lights from the surface installations of lunar cities and not much else.

That could well be, unless they’re using fossil fuels to power the mining. In which case, if there were a problem, people might see a giant smoke ring! cool cheese

Question; (because it’s Friday eve.) What would be the better way to mine Jupiter? With humongous light weight blimp(s) filled up at lower pressure? Or a high strength smaller metal/composite tank filled at high pressure (using FoFu-1 to drive the suction pumps, of course). Or some hybrid version?

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Posted: 01 December 2012 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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benf - 30 November 2012 08:50 PM
zapkitty - 30 November 2012 05:56 PM
benf - 30 November 2012 11:53 AM

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to see the moon with a sad face mad

The folks on Earth looking up will notice lunar space stations and perhaps lights from the surface installations of lunar cities and not much else.

That could well be, unless they’re using fossil fuels to power the mining. In which case, if there were a problem, people might see a giant smoke ring! cool cheese

Question; (because it’s Friday eve.) What would be the better way to mine Jupiter? With humongous light weight blimp(s) filled up at lower pressure? Or a high strength smaller metal/composite tank filled at high pressure (using FoFu-1 to drive the suction pumps, of course). Or some hybrid version?

Fossil Fuels would be the worst to use on the moon for mining operations.  No fossils on the moon (that we know of wink... and so each kilo would need to be launched from Earth to get there. 

Even if no Fusion is possible, there are plenty of power options for lunar mining.
Nuclear Fission is scary when anywhere near civilian population, so it will have no problem on the moon.  Think of the highly mobile, smaller submarine reactors.
Solar… no atmosphere to interfere, low gravity so an array can be very large without as much of the tough support structures.

 

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Posted: 01 December 2012 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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presently as far as i know, Helium is seldom recycled.

it’s just too precious to let go.

can we scoop it from earth’s upper atmosphere?

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