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Name: rrichard w sabaka
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999


Question:
Where is helium found on Earth? How does helium get placed in tanks? Is helium mined and then separated?


Replies:
Helium is a gas, but there are small amounts of it that are trapped within the rocks of the Earth. During volcanic eruptions, some of this helium is spewed into the atmosphere, where it accumulates. The helium that is in the atmosphere today has accumulated for billions of years.

Even so, the amount of helium in the atmosphere is quite small: only about 0.005 percent of the atmosphere is helium. (Most of the atmosphere is nitrogen--78 percent--and oxygen--21 percent.)

I don't think that helium is "mined," that is, taken directly from rocks in the Earth. I think the helium you buy in tanks is separated from the other atmospheric gases. (I'm not certain about this, however.)

-Grant


This information should be available in an encyclopedia. I'll tell you what I have heard about it and then you can read to find out which is correct -- I'll check it out too, for my own sake.

My understanding is that helium has an average velocity greater than the earth's escape velocity and therefore does not stay in the atmosphere -- it is therefore a limited resource. The helium that we get from gas cylinders is mined from oil wells. I have heard that the government requires the oil companies to capture the helium rather than allow it to blow off into the atmosphere because these wells are the best source for it -- I don't know if this is true. The source of the helium in these wells is nuclear reactions (decays of isolated atoms, not a bomb!) occuring in the heavy elements in the rock that have been occurring for billions of years.

Remember, I don't speak from authority -- this is not my area of expertise -- check the facts at your local library.

Have fun!

gregory r bradburn



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