A worldwide shortage of helium is driving prices of the element higher, forcing helium users in many industries to adapt. Demand for helium has been boosted by a wide array of scientific uses, increasing by 80% over the last 20 years in the US and rising by more than 20% annually in developing economies. Because projects to discover new sources of helium are not lucrative enough to warrant their own investments, they are combined with natural gas discovery projects. Upcoming projects are expected to increase supply in a few years, but demand is expected to continue rising. For some laboratories, prices of helium have doubled since the end of the summer; due to cost increases, large labs are facing slowdowns and some smaller independent labs may have to stop their research. Labs using nuclear magnetic resonance systems, whose magnets are cooled with helium, have been particularly hard hit.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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