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Friday, May 31, 2002

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India able to produce high-purity helium

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THE country has finally been able to produce the purest form of helium (A grade with 99.9995 per cent purity) which is used for producing strategic nuclear devices and superconductors. It has also applications in space technology and medical science.

Dr Bikash Sinha, Director of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), told a press conference here that the purity level was attained at the institute's prototype plant on Tuesday after five years of sustained research effort.

Through this step India has joined the select band of producers such as the US, Russia and Poland which have produced A grade helium in the world. The significance of the development is that so far the country had been importing this grade of helium.

As Dr Sinha said, there was "the distinct possibility of restrictions being placed over such imports because of its strategic importance''.

SINP has been spearheading research in helium extraction sourced from the thermal springs at Bakreshwar in West Bengal. It has also designed and built an extraction plant in collaboration with BOC.

"In the last five years, we have made an investment of around Rs 4 crore on the pilot project''.

The institute is now initiating moves for patenting the plant and the process of helium extraction. "For commercial exploitation of the technology, SINP wants to form a joint venture, which will be formalised after the Department of Science and Technology approves it'', Dr Sinha added.

India and West Bengal have large untapped reserves of helium. The institute has also initiated a dialogue with the Geological Survey of India for systematic exploration of helium in the country.

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