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Policy

Societies recommend ways to address helium shortage

by Andrea Widener
October 10, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 40

The U.S. government, Congress, and scientific societies need to preserve the availability of liquid helium before the research enterprise is permanently damaged, a report says. Unstable pricing and unpredictable availability of liquid helium is hurting basic research, primarily work involving low temperatures. As a result, institutions and scientists are starting to abandon research areas that require liquid helium, according to the report from the American Physical Society, the Materials Research Society, and the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN. The White House should develop plans and fund research into ways to conserve and recycle helium, the report says. Congress should require that funds from Federal Helium Reserve sales support academic researchers’ efforts to limit helium consumption. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the U.S. helium reserve, should clarify rules that give federal researchers access to its helium stocks and create a way to get the helium to these users for the current price. Scientific societies should help university users determine if capital investments could help reduce their helium usage, the report adds.

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