London: Scientists have warned their experiments are at risk from a shortage of Helium because the gas is being wasted on party balloons.
The gas is crucial for scientists because it's used to cool atoms to -270C to stop them vibrating, which makes investigating their nature far more straightforward.
It's also widely used in medical scanners and exotic machines such as the Large Hadron Collider.
Last week researcher Oleg Kirichek had to postpone an experiment at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot when helium stocks ran out, Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
He was hoping to study the structure of matter, but had to wait three days to run tests - at a huge cost - while helium was found.
Now, its scarcity is causing alarm bells in the scientific community.
"We wasted 90,000 pounds because we couldn't get any helium. Yet we put the stuff into party balloons and let them float off into the upper atmosphere, or we use it to make our voices go squeaky for a laugh. It makes me really angry," Kirichek told The Guardian.
Although helium is the second-most abundant element in the universe, Earth only has a limited supply - and the US National Research Council believes that we will run out of the gas in less than 30 years.
First Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 22:32