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How helium shortages will impact quantum computer research

Accepted submission by jas at 2019-04-18 12:36:10

Shortages of liquid helium are beginning to cause anxiety for researchers, as the third major supply constraint since 2006 is affecting everyone from medical laboratories to party supply stores due to higher prices and rationing from vendors. Despite helium being the second most abundant element in the universe, there are only 14 liquid helium production facilities in the world--with around 75% of that consumed worldwide produced in Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, an ExxonMobil facility in Wyoming, and facilities owned by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
With the privatization of the helium market--a process that started in 1996--coming to fruition in 2020, private industry has played a larger role in ensuring helium supply in the US, though with the ExxonMobil facility partially shutting down for maintenance this summer, the helium market is going to be squeezed. Quantum computers use a different isotope of helium, the distribution of which is still controlled by the government, which should head off any issues. []

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