Air Liquide has signed a long-term contract with Laurentis Energy Partners for the production and sale of Helium-3 (3He). 3He is a rare helium isotope used in quantum computers, quantum science, astrophysics, neutron detection, medical imaging, and, perhaps in the future, in fusion. Laurentis Energy Partners will recover 3He as a by-product of the energy produced by the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Bowmanville, ON, Canada. Air Liquide will purify, package, and distribute the molecule to its customers worldwide. Production is scheduled to begin at the end of this year.
3He is a very rare and stable isotope of helium. It was discovered in 1939 and is the only stable isotope of any element with more protons than neutrons. It is produced from the radioactive decay of tritium 3H. Compared to the most common isotope 4He, 3He has unique physical properties, such as a lower liquefaction temperature. For this reason, 3He has a wide range of applications, from neutron detection for security gates to deep science, where 3He allows to reach temperatures close to absolute zero. 3He, in particular, is needed to generate the ultra-cold required by quantum computers. As a medical isotope, 3He can also be used for highly detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the airways in the lungs.