In 1903, prospectors discovered the first underground Helium reserve. They deemed it useless however, as it wasn’t flammable, and could never be sold as fuel. 100 years later, liquid helium is invaluable as a coolant for MRI machines, and of course as a gas in deep-sea diving, nuclear power and party balloons. However, supplies of Helium on earth are both finite and unreliable: most reserves are found by accident during petroleum digs.
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This year, experts discovered one of the largest helium fields ever, and they found it on purpose. Located in the Tanzanian Rift Valley, a team led by Jon Gluyas, a Geologist from Durham University and former Oil prospector, and Chris Ballentine, a Geochemist from Oxford University, altered traditional oil prospecting methods to figure out how the Earth might concentrate the gas, caused naturally by underground activity.
The Tanzanian reserve will likely hold enough Helium for over 100,000 machines,
and the team’s efforts are going to be applied to other possible spots. Let’s celebrate with extra balloons.
There’s 99 more stories from 2016. Check out the Best of 2016 series here