The world is running out of helium

blimp with the moon as a background
blimp with the moon as a background

What do you think of when you read the word "helium?" Funny voices? Balloons? According to some scientists, you should instead be thinking words like "shortage," "depletion," and "disaster," because the world is running out of helium.

Most of the world's supply of helium is kept at the Cliffside Storage Facility's Bush Dome, a natural underground formation near Amarillo, Tex. While you may be familiar with helium as the gas that holds up Mylar balloons and blimps and gives anyone inhaling it a comical voice, it has many valuable and not easily replaceable uses. The gas is used in welding, in MRIs, in the production of optical fiber, in high-energy accelerators, in liquid-hydrogen rocket propulsion systems, in scientific research and more.