Helium Stored in Pressure Vessels
I’ve always thought helium tanks resembled torpedoes. All that is missing is the fins at the end and the explosive innards. In a way, submarines are a kind of a giant pressure vessel. I’ve used a helium tank a couple times handing out balloons at the local farmers market. The pressure in the tank pushes the helium out and fills a balloon making some lucky child very happy. Of course, chances are their hopes and dreams are desecrated when the balloon escapes and ascends into the heavens.
Helium that escapes confinement is lost from our atmosphere forever. It is the second lightest element in the universe which means it’s to light to stay in our atmosphere. However that does make the gas a great lifting agent. It is also a noble gas. Helium doesn’t mix with lesser, peasant gases which makes it pretty stable. Among other things, helium acts as a non-reactive buffer for welding. The gas doesn’t just make people smile by making balloons float, it’s actually pretty useful, but for being the second most abundant element in the universe, there isn’t much of it on earth.
As long as helium is still here people will get a kick out of inhaling it and talking like chipmunks at parties. I used to love doing this when I was younger until I learned it can be dangerous if you inhale too much. I never understood why, because helium is a non-toxic gas. It turns out if you inhale too much helium you won’t get enough oxygen and suffocate. Taking helium directly from the tank can also cause lung damage. If your inhaling from balloons, there may be other stuff your inhaling that can cause damage to your body.
I hope the world is not completely drained of helium anytime soon. Parties wouldn’t feel right without balloons floating around. I still think it’s fascinating that we mine for helium. The concept of digging for gas is still hard to wrap my head around. Either way whenever I hear about pressure vessels I always think of helium tanks. This is most likely because helium tanks are the only pressure vessels i know of that I’ve had any interaction with.