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View Full Version : Problem for Airship Manufacturers?


MadsDad
28th Aug 2010, 10:00
People have for some time been predicting/arguing for a new lease of life for Zeppelin sized airships, to carry heavy cargo. According to an article in the Independent today there may be one slight problem in that we appear to be running out of Helium, which is currently essential for them. And once it's gone you can't make any more.

Why the world is running out of helium - Science, News - The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/why-the-world-is-running-out-of-helium-2059357.html)

Molemot
28th Aug 2010, 10:05
Lifting gas or no lifting gas...the wind itself means that the airship can never be truly useful...they'd get blown all over the place, and always have been!

Cacophonix
28th Aug 2010, 10:08
In the universe it is the second most plentiful element but here on our little blue piece of estate it is pretty rare.

As the article in MadsDad's link says, a shortage could effect the design and deployment of MRI scanners and other sophisticated measurement instruments.

The Impact of Selling the Federal Helium Reserve (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9860&page=27)

Takan Inchovit
28th Aug 2010, 10:18
Um, when the helium is used, what does it turn into? :confused:

dead_pan
28th Aug 2010, 10:23
This shortage of helium is no laughing matter, especially to party balloon manufacturers.

Cacophonix
28th Aug 2010, 10:25
Um, when the helium is used, what does it turn into?Helium is inert and therefore is unlikely to bond with other elements. Once the gas escapes into the atmosphere it disperses rapidly and is ultimately likely to be lost into space.

NWS JetStream - Introduction to the Atmosphere (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream//atmos/atmos_intro.htm)

Noah Zark.
28th Aug 2010, 10:28
That bit of news will go down like a lead balloon!

RJM
28th Aug 2010, 10:30
Back to airships for a sec - they were practical in the relatively empty skies of the twenties and thirties.

Airships, jets and GA may not be a good mix.

G-CPTN
28th Aug 2010, 11:41
As an engineer, I would like to point out that there is a lighter possibility than helium.

Vacuum.

Not certain that you can pressurise it, though . . .

dead_pan
28th Aug 2010, 12:49
Hydrogen is the future. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

http://www.blewbury.co.uk/energy/images/hindenburg.jpg

Storminnorm
28th Aug 2010, 15:44
I've NEVER read such a load of trash in all my life!!!!
Running out of Helium?? BO**OCKS.
I'm amazed that supposed learned people subscribe to that view.
The only problem with Helium is that too many people enjoy
breathing it in to have a "Squeaky" voice for a while.
Once they've let the stuff out of balloons it just floats about freely
in the atmosphere, but it's STILL Helium.
There must be millions of tons of the stuff floating around out there.
Especially round eating houses that give balloons away to kids.

G-CPTN
28th Aug 2010, 15:45
Isn't the Moon a balloon?

tony draper
28th Aug 2010, 16:26
The reason for the above photo is the Cousins refused to sell the Sausagesiders Helium, one can hardly blame em concidering what transpired.
Anyway our Sun is busy producing Helium at a prodigious rate even as we speak.
When it stops producing Helium we are in deep poo.:uhoh:

Cacophonix
28th Aug 2010, 16:30
Running out of Helium?? BO**OCKSI guess what the experts are saying Storming is that the distortion of the market caused by the enforced sale of the Federal Reserve has created an artifically low price for Helium resulting in reduced incentives to search for additional Helium sources or to develop extraction plants etc. If this situation is not rectified and current global resources squandered then there could very well be shortages and or price spikes and market peturbations.

There have been global shortages before. The Germans would have filled the Hindenberg with Helium if they had access to this very strategic asset but the US was not minded to sell any to them.

Once they've let the stuff out of balloons it just floats about freely
in the atmosphere, but it's STILL Helium.Helium can be extracted in very small quantities from the atmoshere but this is not cost effective and would not be able to meet even 1% of global demand. When one considers that there is only 5.2 parts per million of He in the atmosphere it is clear that atmospheric Helium is a very rare commodity here on earth.

The BPA link on this issue (see above and below) makes for fascinating reading. ;)

The impact of selling the federal ... - Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jo5YRrptc5MC&pg=PA49&lpg=PA49&dq=economics+of+the+helium+market&source=bl&ots=qFLUy-mHTi&sig=NErsoEkQvphnz04Sqslb4HxBs3g&hl=en&ei=jTp5TLndO5SOjAeDiqnFBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=economics%20of%20the%20helium%20market&f=false)

G-CPTN
28th Aug 2010, 17:04
When one considers that there is only 5.2 parts per million of He in the atmosphere it is clear that atmospheric Helium is a very rare commodity here on earth.
If they released the helium that they are keeping stored the % would rise and it would be cheaper to recover.

Pugilistic Animus
28th Aug 2010, 17:07
it's done with refrigeration...look up the isoenthalpic Joule-Thompson [mu-jt] coefficient--although above the inversion temp expansion of helium actually results in heating, not cooling.:8.also recovery from natural gas--another way...and it is available from the cranium of many celebrities:}

Cacophonix
28th Aug 2010, 17:21
If they released the helium that they are keeping stored the % would rise and it would be cheaper to recover.

G-CPTN for shame! :p :)

https://www.airproducts.com/NR/rdonlyres/E44F8293-1CEE-4D80-86EA-F9815927BE7E/0/ChallengestoHeliumSupply111003.pdf

More on He (a truly fascinating element)...

2Z6UJbwxBZI

BlueWolf
29th Aug 2010, 09:02
Helium is present in most sources of natural gas, in higher concentrations (up to 7%) in some fields, as little as 0.1% in others.

At present it is economically recoverable at about 0.3% and above. BOC Gases have just opened a new extraction plant in Australia to service the Aus and NZ markets.

Exactly like Peak Oil, the coming helium shortage is fiction designed to jack up the price of the stuff, and exactly like Peak Oil, people will believe it.

Why are people so stupid? :confused:

tony draper
29th Aug 2010, 09:09
Watched a documentry series once called the Quest for Zero,about how science has progressed in achieving lower and lower temperatures finishing up with just a few decimal points above absolute zero,which seemingly like the speed of light can never actually be achieved.
:)

Tankertrashnav
29th Aug 2010, 09:21
I cannot see there ever being any use at all for the airship as a cargo transport, helium or no helium. The R100, the largest British airship ever built, was over 700' long and had a useful payload of around 54 tons, not much more than half of that of a C5. It used hydrogen, of course, had it been using slightly heavier helium the payload would have been even less. There may be a future in the area of tourism (cruises downThe Nile etc), but as a practical load carrier airships are a non-starter.

Read Slide Rule by Nevil Shute who was on the R100 design team for some very interesting stuff on airships, including the R101 disaster.

Cacophonix
29th Aug 2010, 10:13
At present it is economically recoverable at about 0.3% and above. BOC Gases have just opened a new extraction plant in Australia to service the Aus and NZ markets.

Exactly like Peak Oil, the coming helium shortage is fiction designed to jack up the price of the stuff, and exactly like Peak Oil, people will believe it.

Why are people so stupid?While it is comforting to know that the mighty behemoth that is NZ industry may be He sufficient (the Asia region including China represents around 7% of the world total consumption of He) it is hardly foolish to consider the warnings from the US National Materials Board that has no vested interest in seeing the He price kept artifically high or low.

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/helium/heliumcs04.pdf

As BlueWolf says the biggest He reservoirs are associated with certain natural gas fields.

Currently the biggest field that is ripe for development is in Algeria.

ALGERIA - The Helium Ventures. | Africa > North Africa from AllBusiness.com (http://www.allbusiness.com/mining/oil-gas-extraction-crude-petroleum-natural/461229-1.html)

Cacophonix
29th Aug 2010, 11:12
There may be a future in the area of tourism (cruises downThe Nile etc), but as a practical load carrier airships are a non-starter.Suspect you are right Tanker but as an aerial vehicle that can loiter with a reasonable load the airship is still viable commercially I think.

Its ability to climb to higher altitudes than are achievable by most commercial aircraft is another airship benefit.

blimp, inflatable buildings, inflatable structures, tethered balloon, aerostat, airships. (http://www.lindstrandtech.com/)

http://jpaerospace.com/atohandout.pdf

As you say there may also be a niche in the luxury market for those dilettantes who are not in a hurry and who are tolerant of a higher aviation risk than your average passenger.

massman
30th Aug 2010, 20:15
There are a lot of nIche markets that an airship can service BUT the cost of development and operation of wht is a complex air vehicle (needing to meet all necessry regulations) is just too prohibitive.

wigglyamp
30th Aug 2010, 20:28
Try looking at Hybrid Air Vehicles in the UK who are developing a new airship fir the US army. They clearly think it's a viable proposition.

www.hybridairvehicles.net

RJM
30th Aug 2010, 20:46
NamibFox the question of viable commercial airship services has not been helped by the Hindenburg disaster, the R101 post justifications and various dramatic events in airship handling caused by human error.

Dr Hugo Eckener, the 'inheritor' of Count Zeppelin's mantle as the world's pre-eminent airship expert proved with his long and safe operation of the Graf Zeppelin and other ships that properly handled, airships could be a safe form of travel.

However, the financial viability of services, at least in the 1930's, is hard to establish because of the subsidies involved in the invariably nationalistic large dirigible projects.

loiter with a reasonable load the airship is still viable commercially I think.

You are probably right, although 'loitering' in an untethered airship is not free of cost. Depending on air movement, power must be used to maintain station.

Its ability to climb to higher altitudes than are achievable by most commercial aircraft is another airship benefit.

I would question this in the case of an airship with a frame. Framed, dirigible type airships are essentially low altitude craft because they cannot accommodate significant expansion of their gas cells. That they cannot climb above the weather and descend again is a major disadvantage.

luxury market for those dilettantes who are not in a hurry and who are tolerant of a higher aviation risk

Airships may have spacious accommodation and move gracefully, if slowly, but to date they have been extremely noisy. Sound proofing is generally too heavy for extensive use, and air-cooled engines are usually used for lightness. The result is a relatively high noise level.

As for a higher aviation risk, Dr Eckener as mentioned proved that properly managed, airships can be very safe. A well handled helium ship should be as safe as a commercial airliner, but would not have the same level of ground support around the world - ie landing places etc. - unless airship travel became the norm.

G-CPTN
30th Aug 2010, 21:38
to date they have been extremely noisy.
Indeed, that was the first impression of the airship in the video from #24 - as was the Goodyear Airship Europa (built at Cardington in the early 1970s) which used to buzz over our house at minimal airspeed.

airship
30th Aug 2010, 22:03
I believe that airships in all their forms have a great future.

Even if the outlook for many airships in existence today may appear sombre, there will always be a need for airships. The special capabilities of the airship have yet to be exploited fully.

Miscellaneous cats and the more intelligent individuals amongst us know what I'm talking about.

We don't need Boeing's Dreamliner or Airbus' A350. We need more airships. Sleep on it.

BlueWolf
30th Aug 2010, 22:36
A week to cruise from NZ to the UK, enough room to move, flying low enough to see a few mountains, no jet lag, count me in.
:ok:

bnt
30th Aug 2010, 23:15
As an engineer, I would like to point out that there is a lighter possibility than helium.

Vacuum.

Not certain that you can pressurise it, though . . .
It's not that you'd pressurise the vacuum, it's that you'd need to build the container strong enough to resist the pressure of the atmosphere outside: about 14.7 pounds/sq.in or 100 kPa. A purpose-built steel "vacuum tanker" can't do that when its safety valves are disabled:
Zz95_VvTxZM

Just to re-iterate what NamibFox said: when Helium is released in to the atmosphere, it doesn't combine with anything, and it doesn't stay in the atmosphere. Like Hydrogen (as H2), Helium atoms can actually escape the Earth's gravity and leak in to space. Only the "gas giants" have gravity powerful enough to hold them - which is why they are gaseous planets, and the Earth isn't. It's amazing that we actually have any here at all, trapped in rock.

airship
30th Aug 2010, 23:36
1 week is too short. Say 2-3 weeks UK to NZ. It's not natural to be in Durban one day, London the next and then Tokyo the day after? I realise not many people do that. But the reason that modern air travel exists is in large part funded by the businesses that feel they need to do this. 1st class wouldn't exist either if it weren't for all those in the back of the cabin...?!

Flying Inter-continental via airship, you might get the chance of swooping down on a few gnus and zebras on their migrations, perhaps frightening off a few crocs temporarily. Oh me God, the Masai are bleeding one of their cattle - "**** the continental breakfast", I need something more substantial, airship pilot, put us down there...?! Can an airship produce a bow-wave or at least a ground-effect (more accurately sea-effect) to attract porpoises or dolphins in the Indian Ocean? Let's find out airship pilot...

Instead of which we're all condemned to fly across the globe at great heights and in such short periods. Imagine if Aleaxander the Great were of the present time. Got on a low-cost carrier with his army, hoping to conquer all the territories to the east, ended up in Tasmania?! Listening to John Dunbar's "Dances with wolves" at present. I'm cool.

RJM
30th Aug 2010, 23:45
oVP2pZX2yGo

BlueWolf
31st Aug 2010, 00:12
2 or 3 weeks is too long. Make it 10 days and you've got a deal :ok: