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The New Jersey-based supplier company did not publish a list of affected stores, but said that closures will occur during 2019.
USA TODAY

A global helium shortage could burst the bubble for any company that relies on gas to lift weather balloons, big airships, and, yes, the balloons at your child's birthday party that cast your vote Swords bring a chipmunk.

But the deficiency may lessen for a whole host of other purposes.

Helium is used in deep-sea divers, airbags, cryogenics, rocket fuel, MRI equipment and in technical fields such as fiber optics and semiconductors.

"The current and expected shortage of helium will affect everyone by and large," says William Halperin, professor of physics in the Northwest.

University of Washington chemistry professor Sophia Hayes agrees. "There are so many uses beyond party balloons," she says.

The bottlenecks attracted a lot of attention on Thursday after Party City announced the closure of 45 stores this year.

The Party City officials keep the closures and The Shortage has nothing to do with the problem, stating that they are working to get a new source of helium, and that a contract that is under final approval is relocating its branches Helium will be provided this summer and will last for several years.

2019 Party City store closures: 45 locations closed

2019 Helium Shortage: Why It's More Difficult to Host a Party and Balloons to Fill

Although there are long-term effects, experts believe that consumers may not feel the effects immediately

Many companies that rely on helium say they are alright – until further notice.

Emily Cropper, spokeswoman for Goodyear Tire & Rubber, said while Goodyear uses helium as propellant in all its famous airships, "our operation is currently unaffected by helium shortages. & # 39; & # 39;

Corning spokesman Dan Collins says the materials science company uses helium for optical fibers, especially in the telecommunications industry. However, Corning does not comment on the materials used in our manufacturing process. However, Collins said he is fulfilling all of his worldwide supply obligations for fiber optics and cables without interruption.

The airbag suppliers were also optimistic for the time being.

ZF North America, the US arm of a German top airbag manufacturer, uses a different combination of gases for gas generators.

"We use helium, but it's a small part of our component," said Tony Sapienza, director of ZF TRW North America. "We have no concerns about the production of helium at present."

Similarly, Autoliv, the world's largest provider of airbags, has no concerns about the helium shortage affecting its business.

"We use a very small amount of helium, which can be checked during the test phase for any leaks in our inflators," says spokesman Tom Hajkus.

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Doctor's instructions

From a consumer's perspective, you should be able to get the MRI that the doctor needs for you. As Hayes explains, helium deficiency has been boiling for some time and hospitals have planned it in advance.

But Halperin believes smaller hospitals are more vulnerable.

Hayes says that the MRI you find in a hospital is based on a closed circuit where the helium circulates, much like the coolant in the radiator of your car. "The helium in such machines only has to be refilled occasionally," she says.

Hayes believes that the shortage can impact specialized machines similar to MRI in a hospital used by pharmaceutical companies and chemical research departments.

Instead of exploring humans and bodies, these machines, called NMRs, study the structure of all chemicals.

chemical laboratory, "says Hayes," one day this becomes a problem with a global deficiency, perhaps not today. "

The shortage could lead to higher semiconductor costs, though it remains to be seen how or even if such costs will matter "Somebody's going to pay somewhere," says Hayes.

Where Helium Stems

Helium is recovered from natural gas extraction and from the National Helium Reserve, which is to be decommissioned 202 worldwide supply.

The strongest of its closure affected individuals will be cryoprocessors, says Halperin.

On the global stage, Qatar, Algeria, and the US are the main suppliers, with new sources possibly coming from Russia and some not Tanzania, though Hayes says the discoveries are tentative 9659005] Helium is nonrenewable and is expected to deliver another 200 years at current rates of consumption.

"Some of us are pushing for the recycling of helium," says Hayes. "That's hard to do and requires a lot of engineering and is expensive."

Contribution: Kelly Tyko; Randy Essex, Detroit Free Press

Follow @edbaig on Twitter; @charissejones

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