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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 23 March, 2021

  • 3 Min Read

Helium Crisis in India

India imports the majority of helium for its domestic needs but now the U.S appears to cut off exports of helium from 2021. Hence, the Indian industry stands to lose out heavily.

About Helium:

  • Helium is a chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.
  • It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements.
  • Helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe
    • Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant.
  • The liquified Helium is obtained by cooling the gas to -270 degrees Celsius.

Applications of Helium:

  • Helium is used as a super coolant for cryogenic applications. It is used in applications such as Magnet Resonance Imaging (MRI), particle accelerator, in rockets, and in nuclear reactors.
  • The density of helium is lighter than air. Therefore, helium is used as lift gas for balloons, meteorological balloons and airships.
  • Helium is used for leak detection because helium has the smallest molecular size.
    • It is a monatomic molecule, therefore, helium passes easily through the smallest leaks.
  • Its a monatomic gas meaning “Single-atom”. These gases are not bound to each other and non-reactive in nature. Noble gases are monatomic gases.
  • Helium is used as the preferred protective gas due to its chemical inertness.
  • Helium is used as cooling gas due to its very high specific heat and thermal conductivity in semiconductor manufacturing.

Helium Production:

  • The US became the most important exporter of helium across the world.
  • Large quantities of helium were discovered under the American Great Plains.
  • Qatar is also an exporter of Helium. But acute political and diplomatic wrangles have made Qatar unreliable.

India’s Helium Imports:

  • India imports helium from the U.S. to meet its needs.
  • However, the US is now planning to switch off the export of helium from 2021 thus the Indian Industry needs to find an alternative source of Helium.
  • India’s Rajmahal volcanic basin in Jharkhand is the storehouse of helium trapped for billions of years.

Source: TH


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