R

1965

- 2005

' VEAF EXCEL

iS OF .LENCE

Kansas Refined Helium Co. Div. BOC

FIGURE 8-8 Sign at entrance to helium plant. Crude helium is piped from natural gas fields in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas for further purification and liquefaction at processing plants in central Kansas, United States. Photo by JSA, May 2007.

FIGURE 8-8 Sign at entrance to helium plant. Crude helium is piped from natural gas fields in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas for further purification and liquefaction at processing plants in central Kansas, United States. Photo by JSA, May 2007.

the United States. In the 1990s, however, all helium production was privatized (Natural Academy of Sciences, 2000). Nowadays helium extracted from natural gas is the only commercial source, and the United States is the major

FIGURE 8-9 Helium tank and balloon filler valve. (A) Helium cylinder mounted on a hand truck for easy transport. This tank weighs ~ 65 kg when full and contains ~ 7 m3 of helium. It is shown here with the safety cap in place (top of tank). The cap is required whenever the tank is transported or stored. (B) Close-up view of valve and nozzle for inflating balloons or blimps. The valve is opened by bending the black tip. This valve must be removed for transportation and storage of the tank. Photos by JSA.

FIGURE 8-9 Helium tank and balloon filler valve. (A) Helium cylinder mounted on a hand truck for easy transport. This tank weighs ~ 65 kg when full and contains ~ 7 m3 of helium. It is shown here with the safety cap in place (top of tank). The cap is required whenever the tank is transported or stored. (B) Close-up view of valve and nozzle for inflating balloons or blimps. The valve is opened by bending the black tip. This valve must be removed for transportation and storage of the tank. Photos by JSA.

supplier (Fig. 8-8). Helium is also produced in Algeria, Poland, Qatar, and Russia. As an industrial commodity, compressed helium is widely available at modest cost in the USA in steel cylinders that can be purchased or rented from gas distributors (Fig. 8-9).

Helium has significant lift and definite safety advantages compared with hot air, but helium is either quite expensive or simply not available in many countries around the world. Conversely propane, cooking gas, or other types of natural gas for firing a hot-air balloon or blimp can be found just about everywhere. Because commercial gas tanks are too large and heavy for model airships or do not allow extracting liquid gas, they need to be decanted into special gas bottles. It has proven extremely important to use a fine-meshed gas filter (Fig. 8-10) in this process to prevent the transfer of small dirt and rust particles from commercial gas tanks into the flight bottles, where the debris can turn into a severe hazard when blocking valves and burners. The difficulties the authors initially had with such impurities were numerous and endangered several field surveys. Filtering is also advisable for the gasoline used as fuel for small combustion engines. Even if the degree of fuel purity is standardized nowadays, old tanks and barrels are often rusted inside, and a spluttering motor in the air may terminate not only the flight but also the existence of the aircraft and even the camera.

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