Up up and away! Launching the Helium Recycling @ School Project
18 Mar 2024
- Elizabeth Bridges



To celebrate Global Recycling Day, we are showcasing the public engagement work done by Dale Keeping at ISIS to raise awareness of the importance of helium and recycling at a local school. 




​At the end of last year, Dale Keeping, the Helium Recovery Manager at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, visited South Moreton Primary school to talk to the students about the importance of recycling and the work being done at ISIS to improve helium recovery.​

Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe, with the sun producing around 700 million tonnes of helium every second. However, on Earth this element is a finite resource. It also has a key role to play in science. Helium is essential for maintaining cool temperatures of superconducting magnets which are used in MRI machines, as well as on the beamlines at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source to cool samples to near absolute zero (-273°C). 
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                                      The Cryogenic department at ISIS (pictured) lead the Helium Recovery Program.

At ISIS, there is a helium recycling initiative to help reduce the pressure of production, collection, and loss of helium. The ISIS Helium Recovery Facility was set up in 2015 and currently runs at over 95% efficiency, resulting in around 45,000 litres of liquid helium being recycled back into ISIS every year. Around two-thirds of the experiments conducted at ISIS require liquid helium, therefore this initiative plays an important role in ISIS’s operations. 

The Helium Recycling@School project was set up by Dale Keeping with South Moreton Primary School – the first school to have a method to recycle helium. Students at South Moreton explored the importance of recycling as well as the role of helium in research and technology, and discovered how they could play a part. The students were encouraged to bring their helium party balloons to the helium recycling bin during school hours. These balloons will then be collected on a regular basis and their helium pumped into the ISIS helium recovery system. 
Two people remove helium from a dinosaur balloon
                    Dale and Mulder from the ISIS Helium Recovery Team emptiying the first balloon into the recycling system.

 “School children are the future and can help steer the way in which the world uses precious finite resources. This project aims to give the children a sense of pride and be empowered to recycle, help the planet, and have a direct impact on the science undertaken at ISIS through their good will. Hopefully, some of the children will also be interested in a STEM related career and perhaps work in our Cryogenics team one day! ”- Dale Keeping  

 To further encourage the students interests in recycling and research, the next step in this engagement project is for the students come to ISIS and have a tour to learn how their helium has helped our facility. 

There will also be an opportunity for staff on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site to get involved with the helium effort. In the upcoming months, a helium recycle bin will be set up at ISIS, similar to the one at South Moreton School, where staff can go to donate helium balloons to be fed into ISIS’s supply of Helium.  

Contact: Bridges, Elizabeth (STFC,RAL,ISIS)