As a helium shortage looms, “vacuum balloons” could save physics, medicine, and birthday parties

Helium balloons are a quintessential party favor, a fixture of any birthday, wedding or anniversary party. But few consumers seem to know that helium is a limited resource — and one which physics experiments and medical imaging tools rely on to work. Worse, once a helium balloon pops, that gas is lost forever — it floats upwards and escapes into space, never to be seen on Earth again. 

Now, with the specter of a recent helium shortage still looming, consumers are being asked to ration their helium in order to save science and medicine. The idea that party supply companies and consumers can’t give up helium balloons in order to save these more worthy enterprises might seem a tad selfish; but this is how the market thinks. Yet a few inventors around the country have a brilliant compromise: what if we could make a “balloon” that needed no helium gas

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