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10 Things to Know About Helium - Tanzania's New Chemical Wealth

Enormous deposits of helium--estimated at 54 billion cubic feet--have been discovered in Tanzania's Rift Valley and could relieve dwindling supplies of the rare gas, which is used in hospitals in MRI scanners as well as in spacecraft, telescopes and radiation monitors. "This is seven times the current global consumption," said Professor Chris Ballentine of Oxford University, one of the researchers working on the project. "This is enough to fill over 1.2 million medical MRI scanners." Here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about Helium - the second element in the periodic table. More about GE in Africa in this BRIEFING.

Scientists from Durham and Oxford universities announced last month that vast resources of the rare Helium gas had been discovered in Tanzania's Great Rift Valley. The discovery, described as game-changer, is set to end concerns over a shortage of gas used in medical diagnosis equipment, mainly MRI and in rocket science. Some independent analysts say the recently discovered helium gas in Lake Rukwa could be worth $3.5 billion.

Liquefaction is a process used to recapture helium lost during the MRI manufacturing process so it can be reused it—it’s essentially a major recycling system. GE Healthcare built a new 5,000-square-foot helium liquefaction facility in Florence, South Carolina to further liquefaction efforts.

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