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MHS Library | How can chemical principles be applied to create a more sustainable future?

Investigation topic 1: Endangered elements in the periodic table

Today’s chemists are involved in many branches of chemistry, covering all 118 elements in the periodic table. Some of these elements are now considered to be critical and endangered, particularly due to the prevalence of modern technologies that rely on many different scarce minerals. It has been estimated that 44 elements will soon be, or are already, facing supply limitations, making a future of continuing technological advancement uncertain.

Questions that may be explored in this investigation include:

· Why is helium classified as a critical and endangered element, and how can it be saved given that its atmospheric recovery is almost impossible?

Discovery of helium

myUNT | University of North Texas. (2023).

A supply crisis of helium

Helium rationing, a looming crisis – and a sinking feeling - a news article.

McInnes, B. (2013, July 29). Helium rationing, a looming crisis – and a sinking feeling. The Conversation.

Sourcing helium from space - a news article

A rendering of a brown and silver asteroid in space.

Ogden, T. (2022, May 11). Wealthy nations are carving up space and its riches – and leaving other countries behind. The Conversation.

The many uses of helium

How Helium is used in technology, medicine and more...

Jessica. (2022). How Is Helium Used In Cable And Internet Services | Open World Learning.

BOC South Pacific. (2014). BOC - Understanding the uses of Helium [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

Origin theory of helium

History of the Universe graphic

Read about the theory of the origins of helium here

The Big Bang | Exploratorium. (2023, March 7). Exploratorium.

Recovery systems of helium

With a global helium shortage at a high, we wanted to be able to reduce our environmental impact. 

Some examples of helium recovery systems

Quantum Technology Helium Recovery System

Helium Recovery System. (2023).


 Magnetic Resonance Research Center with a sustainable system that recycles the helium it uses for research

amid. (2022, November 30). ASU recycles research-supporting helium amid global shortage. ASU News.

Academic literature on helium recovery

A Review of Conventional and Emerging Process Technologies for the Recovery of Helium from Natural Gas

Thomas E. Rufford, K. Ida Chan, Stanley H. Huang, & Eric F. May. (2014). A Review of Conventional and Emerging Process Technologies for the Recovery of Helium from Natural Gas. Adsorption Science & Technology32.


Endangered helium: bursting the myth.

Clarke, R., Nuttall, W., & Glowacki, B. (2013). Endangered helium: bursting the myth. TCE: The Chemical Engineer870/871, 32–36.