The electronics industry is close to avoiding a helium supply crisis after the United States Congress last week approved bipartisan legislation to secure the procurement of this key element that is needed to manufacture semiconductors and other electronic products.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved an amended version of H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act. The House of Representatives last week also passed the same legislation, and it now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama.
"We urge President Obama to act swiftly to sign this critical legislation into law," said Brian Toohey, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association trade group, through a statement. Toohey said the final Congressional approval of helium legislation that would ensure continued helium supply and avoid a disruption of the U.S. economy.
However, President Obama has a week to sign the legislation into law since the Federal Helium Reserve, which controls about one-third of the world's supply, will be prohibited from selling helium beginning Oct. 7 under current law. H.R. 527 would fix this problem, allowing the Reserve to continue selling helium to private entities.
In addition its uses for advanced manufacturing, helium also has essential applications for scientific research and numerous other products and technologies, including medical devices like MRI machines, chemicals, aerospace, and fiber optics.