02 Jul 2024
by Marc Farrington

How UK explorers are leading the way in sourcing critical raw materials for emerging technologies

Guest blog from Marc Farrington at Pulsar Helium.

Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) are elements which are economically and strategically important for the UK & European economies. These materials are identified as having high-risk associated with their supply and are classified ‘Critical’ because: 

  1. They have a significant economic importance for key sectors including environmental technologies, consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, scientific research & development, internet communications, defence and aviation. 

  1. They carry a significant supply risk due to high import dependence. 

  1. There is a lack of (viable) alternatives due to the unique and irreplaceable properties offered by these materials. 

This insight highlights the importance of one of these critically listed raw materials: Helium (He).  

Helium exploration and development is an industry emerging from a decade-long supply shortage. As the most stable element on the periodic table, helium is uniquely inert and essential in many applications, serving as a cornerstone of our technologically advanced way of life, though many people are unaware of their reliance on it. 


Until recently, the USA was the largest supplier of helium, hosting the world’s largest stand-alone repository, the Federal Helium Reserve. Established in 1925, the Reserve was privatised earlier this year but is now a shadow of its former self, having plummeted from over 44 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of helium to approximately 4 Bcf today. Research suggests that the global helium requirement is estimated to increase from 6.1 Bcf in 2023 to 8.1 Bcf in 2030, with the following fast growth sectors requiring significant quantities of helium:

Medical Technology: Helium plays a crucial role in medical treatments requiring enhanced oxygen intake, such as addressing upper airway obstruction in conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, helium is essential for the operation of MRI scanners, where liquid helium cools the superconducting magnets within the machines. Notably, the medical sector stands as one of the foremost consumers of helium, highlighting its pivotal role in advancing healthcare technology.

Consumer technology: Helium is essential in the manufacturing and assembly of many electronic devices. It serves multiple critical roles in semiconductor fabrication, crucially important chips which can be found in thousands of products including artificial intelligence (AI), computers, smartphones, appliances, gaming hardware and household entertainment systems. Helium is also employed as a purge gas to establish clean environments, eliminating contaminants and ensuring controlled atmospheres, vital during microchip manufacturing.


Aerospace: Liquid helium is used as a pressure agent for cryogenic fuel tanks in space rockets. As the rocket burns fuel, the fuel tank is purged with liquid helium to maintain pressure. When you see a rocket on the launch pad with gas emanating from its side, it is likely to be helium boiling at -268.9ºC.

In addition to the primary markets as listed above, helium is in increasing demand across a variety of burgeoning frontier markets including:

Drones and Robotics: Helium is used extensively in the manufacturing of semiconductors which play a crucial role in drones and robotics. Drone electronics, including flight controllers, communication systems, and navigation modules all require the integration of semiconductors enabling them to operate autonomously, navigate complex environments, and execute missions with precision. Advanced semiconductor technologies, such as microprocessors and integrated circuits empower robots with computational capabilities enabling real-time data processing, image recognition and the ability to execute complex algorithms and make decisions based on sensor input.

Lasers: Widely used across the manufacturing, transportation and military sectors, helium is integral for many types of laser, critical for cooling, ranging and targeting. The fibre laser market is projected to grow by 145% between 2019 – 2030 (Sce: tinyurl.com/24n29rx2).

Data storage: By 2025 it is estimated that 181 x zettabytes (181 x trillion gigabytes) will be created, captured, copied & consumed globally. Since 2013, cost-effective & highly efficient helium hard drives have been essential for powering high-volume data storage centres (Sce: tinyurl.com/bdzzzan9).

Renewables: Battery technology is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the 'Green Energy Transition'. Battery storage technologies enable energy from renewables to be stored, then released when the power is needed most, helping maintain balance between supply and demand within the power system. Helium is commonly used in leak detection tests during battery cell, module & pack production processes.

Pulsar Helium is a primary helium exploration company comprising British founders: CEO Thomas Abraham-James, Chairman Neil Herbert and Australian born Technical manager Josh Bluett with its PR and strategic partnerships team led by fellow Briton Marc Farrington. The team comprises helium pioneers and seasoned experts in the realm of gas exploration and production.

Pulsar is committed to the development of new sustainable primary helium assets, prioritising projects where helium is the main economic driver rather than hydrocarbons. The company boasts two primary helium assets, both strategically located in safe jurisdictions:

  • The ‘Tunu’ project in Greenland. Upon successful development it will have the potential to become the UK’s most accessible, local and possibly only source of helium.
  • The ‘Topaz’ project in Minnesota, USA. This asset was recently confirmed as the most significant primary helium discovery in North America with exceptional helium concentrations of between 8.7% and 14.5%.

Over the past 12 months, Pulsar has made notable strides, particularly in North America and is uniquely positioned to ease the strain on one of the world’s critically important raw materials essential to our way of life. With a highly anticipated stream of updates expected in the coming weeks and months, we invite you to visit our website, subscribe to our mailing list and learn more: pulsarhelium.com

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Marc Farrington

Strategic Partnerships, Pulsar Helium