Helium is the most stable element in the periodic table and it is slightly alone in this respect as it does not react or burn with any other elements, it has the lowest melting and boiling points which contributes to its popularity in so many areas.

Helium has many uses, and one of the most popular being inflating balloons at birthday parties, it does have more important roles to play; MRIs use helium to cool their superconducting magnets to ensure a steadier magnetic field is created. Helium is also used in particle physics research as a useful conductor of energy, and to cool down thermographic cameras so they become more sensitive to minor fluctuations in temperature.

These and many other applications of the most inert element are under threat due to a growing shortage of helium. At the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity they have had to halt their research because of the shortage and these problems are due to continue.

The problem stems from the US, who used to be the biggest helium supplier, but recent privatization of the industry has led to a mass sell-off, of the countries helium reserves. This sell-off has had a knock on effect to the global helium market throwing it in to flux with serious problems resulting in supply and demand.

Solutions are being sought, but with little intervention we are looking at less than 50 years of resource, and with no suitable alternative to get down to absolute zero we are faced with a big problem across many devices and applications.