Helium Saver

Background Information

Helium is a noble gas that occurs in the earth's crust and can be found in small concentrations in natural gas deposits.

The price of helium has doubled in the last months (2022). The USA is the world's largest producer of helium, but other countries such as Qatar and Russia also produce the noble gas.

The global helium infrastructure, logistics and thus supply is exposed to major challenges and changes. Geopolitical events, natural events, depleting sources, technical events at the extraction facilities and necessary maintenance have a major impact on availability. In recent months (2022), the supply of helium has deteriorated, leading to a helium shortage.

For the past 30-40 years helium has been the standard carrier gas for most GC-MS users due to its low price and availability at that time. Since the 2012/13 helium shortage, a number of GC-MS methods that could previously only be performed using helium as a carrier gas have been validated for use with hydrogen as a carrier gas, offering laboratories the option of cheaper alternatives than helium.

However, the switch to hydrogen as a GC-MS carrier gas requires a complete revision of the existing method due to the changed viscosity. Losses in sensitivity are also noted, especially with weaker pump systems (smaller turbo pumps, diffusion pumps). Due to safety concerns related to the flammability of hydrogen, installing a hydrogen sensor in the gas chromatograph oven chamber is highly recommended.

In order to reduce the consumption of helium, CHROMTECH has developed the Helium EcoSaver option for GC and GC-MS systems. When using this system, helium is only consumed when it is actually needed, i.e. during a sample sequence. After a sample sequence the carrier gas supply is automatically switched to another gas, e.g. B. nitrogen. The switch back to acquisition mode with helium occurs either automatically, by starting a sequence, or manually by pressing the button on the Helium EcoSaver. In both cases, after the gas changeover, a flushing time specified by the user expires, during which residues of nitrogen are flushed out of the chromatographic system. After that time the sample sequence will start.


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