AMRAD at Hamvention

Robert E. Seastrom rs at
Sat May 12 07:29:33 CDT 2012

"fgentges at" <fgentges at> writes:

> An impending problem is the getting helium and such flights
> will have to switch to hydrogen.

I have a couple of small helium tanks (60 cubic feet, refillable) that
I periodically get filled to take to parties.  Instant "favorite uncle
status", btw.

Recently got one filled and the bill came to something like $80.
That's up from $60 last time I got one filled.  An identically sized
tank of C25 for the MIG welder (75% argon, 25% CO2) is $30-ish, to
give you an idea of price differential.

It's ironic that we're in the situation we are, since the main source
we have is by fractional distillation from natural gas and we're at
record production levels of natural gas in these last years (the same
sorts of formations that trap natural gas also tend to trap helium
that's a product of radioactive decay).  The record production is due
to fracking and has resulted in record low prices (when adjusted for
inflation), to the point that it there is an economic incentive to use
gas insted of coal for base load power generation in many cases.

Unfortunately cryogenic use of helium, e.g. in MRI machine magnets
(largest use) and shield gas use (chip fabs in particular) is also at
record high levels.

I tried to get a cylinder of hydrogen at Arcet down in Manassas.  They
said they didn't stock it and kind of treated me like I was nuts to be
wanting such a thing.  I thought this was pretty ironic considering
that the place is all full of propane and acetylene cylinders, both of
which scare me a lot more than hydrogen.

I wouldn't use it for balloons for kids, but for something like Doug
did I'd be all over it.  Only 8% better lift power (inconsequential)
for H2, but I can't help but wonder if it would leak out of rubber
balloons more slowly due to the molecules being fatter (it's diatomic).

Food for thought...

BTW, I'm planning to be at Dayton this year.  :)


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