Helium in the UK

Any Bappers out there know a good (cheap) helium supplier in the UK?
got a rig and a balloon but looks like it's going to cost me


  • edited May 2011
    If the balloon is not too big and can be transported inflated then I don't think you need to deflate it every time after use.
    You can also think about covering balloon's surface with additional coating to prevent helium from escaping.
    From what I've heard some balloons are being used for up to three months without re-fill.
    I'm not BAPer though, might be wrong.

  • Until you can buy it in one of Tesco's aisles then i'm afraid its small market footprint drags a premium price. When i looked into it costs went down the bigger amount you bought it in.
  • My supplier is http://balloonhelium.co.uk/ or "Bonza Balloons". Their prices are really decent, you can order and pick up from your nearest BOC depot. Cheers
  • There has been a news story over the last few days about helium being in short supply http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/up-up--away-helium-shortage-sends-prices-sky-high-8081382.html
  • My mass spectrometrist friends are really struggling - the amount of helium that is possibly available is really small, and they need a lot. Wonder why BAPpers don't use hydrogen?
  • My cost for helium here in California has also skyrocketed. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that the cost to fill my 5-foot diameter balloon has gone from $25 or $30 to $80 or $85. This will result in many fewer frivolous balloon outings for me.

    The major football stadium renovation has just been completed here in Berkeley. I have aerial photos of the stadium from before and during the the construction. I'd love to get photos of it this week before or during the first game is played there. It's a very difficult site to KAP, but I can't convince myself that it's worth $80 to fill the balloon.

    I may have a paying job for the balloon in the next week or two, and would use that opportunity to BAP the stadium.

    It's moving into the light wind season here in the next few weeks. BAP is a more appropriate technology for much of the urban aerial photography I like to do, especially during light or absent winds. I would love to figure out the easiest and most economical way to transport and store the filled balloon so that I can use it several times a month and only need to top off the helium periodically. I think I will start a new thread looking for advice toward this end.
  • Robert, I have concluded that the risk of explosion from spark or static electricity when using hydrogen is simply too great. If you feel confident that it is safely doable, please describe the method here or contact me at michael [at] greatheights [dot] net
  • Well, hydrogen does not explode by itself. People routinely keep much worse things like acetylene which does explode by itself. Hydrogen is also so much lighter that air that if it leaks it would escape from your and your baloon vincinity immediately.
    One serious caveat: use baloon only in the open air, do not ever put filled baloon in an enclosed space. It cold kill you then. Leaked hydrogen will acumulate under a ceiling "nicely" mixed with air and wait for ignition source (for example incadescent lamp) to act on it -- and it would ignite violently (e.g. explode with significant power -- see Fukushima explosions: hydrogen accumulated under the ceiling and then went bang, worsening matters significantly).

  • Hydrogen has a very wide explosive/ignition mix range (4 to 75% in air) and in that range dangerous with static electricity. Some materials can also catalyze ignition without a spark. It's best handled under controlled conditions in a controlled environment. I deal with it in the lab but always purge chambers with an inert gas four to five times so you never mix air and hydrogen and always release the hydrogen at a slow rate in a ventilated system designed for flammable gasses. There should be some literature on weather balloon protocol but it should be noted that they are generally utilizing it at a set location, not traveling with it and filling under variable field conditions.
  • edited August 2012
    I you are handling a very thin balloon with several m3 of hydrogen anywhere near other people (like city BAP), and something bad happens, you will probably go to jail...

    H2 might be okay for an experiment in a remote place, but I think it is irresponsible in a city.
  • Ha! Interesting. I also used it in the lab, but in more carefree days; I used to explode it in the fume hood when I got bored. I wouldn't worry about handling it out of doors - it goes up when punctured, and remember that Zeppelins containing 100,000m3 of hydrogen were used for nearly 40 years without exaggerated precautions before the Hindenburg disaster - but the correspondents on this page are correct, the risks in handling it indoors or even in a car make it too impractical for real use.

    Out of interest I looked up the complete list of lighter-than-air gases. Interesting. But only helium is practical; most of the others are much more dangerous than hydrogen (eg Hydrogen cyanide). So I guess it's helium or nothing. Hot-air balloons would be less safe above a town than hydrogen balloons.

    On the same topic - £75 ($100+) for a party balloon? Where does that leave BAP?
    (this article is accurate, and Meerstone's inaccurate - helium is common in the universe but rare on earth)
  • FCB
    edited August 2012
    A lot of dangers are over-rated but there are some real dangers associated with putting a hydrogen cylinder in the closed cab of a car or throwing it in the trunk. This is one place where there are state and federal regulations and a supplier may refuse to sell if you throw it in the trunk in front of them.
  • AFAIR in California you could take 3 standard bottles of the thing without much formalities (and not breaking the law).

    Acetylene is worse than H2 -- its explosive range is significantly worse than hydrogen (2.5% to 81% - worst among chemicals used by general public, we don't use ethylene oxide nor diborane, don't we?) its just tiny bit lighter than air so it will tend to stay around and engulf any poor soul standing nearby, it decomposes violently by itself, just compress it a bit and it will go bang. Put it in contact with something catalysing it's decomposition or it's reaction with oxygen and it'll ignite happily by itself. Yet acetylene is commonly used by welders, stored in garages, etc.

    H2 in free air will escape immediately. I'm somewhat privvy to info about accident where contemporary manned sport baloon ignited. Crew escaped safely (accident happened on the ground, after landing).
    Hindenburg is not representative of H2 hazards, as its sking was made from stuff resembling solid rocket fuel. If you pack hydrogen into solid rocket fuel envelope you're certainly asking for trouble.

  • I posted the info below in another thread and was trying to decide whether to repost it here or provide a link link to the other thread. I decided to simply repost it here. Sincere apologies if that's not proper forum etiquette!

    I've been researching feverishly in the past few days, and am hopeful that I'm onto something that may allow me to use smaller diameter balloons to loft my camera rig.

    There is a thin plasticized film called Heptax that is being used in the manufacture of various balloons and blimps. It is similar to mylar but much stronger, and much less permeable to helium. Strong seams can be made by heat sealing.

    Since my 5-foot diameter, 2.5 mil polyurethane balloon is fairly heavy, at least 1.5 lbs, I am thinking that using this much lighter material (somewhere around 29 grams/square yard) for the balloon envelope will allow me to use smaller, or even multiple small balloons which will make the transportation issue much easier to tackle.

    If I do construct something with this material, I will probably try to design something that will perform better than a simple sphere in winds above 5 mph.

    I will provide updates when I know more on the subject.
  • I would think some kind of hot air contraption would be easier and safer than a hydrogen option.
  • Someone experimented with a solar black plastic bag ballon not so long ago.
  • A delightful demonstration of (a) how explosive hydrogen is, and (b) how relatively non-threatening it is.
    (though I still think using it for BAP is totally impractical)

  • There is some discussion of Heptax on the Small Blimp Forum here:
    It sounds pretty difficult to work with.
    I've had the material and plans to build some solar balloons for months but haven't done it yet.
    The idea of a hot air balloon intrigues me, I wish I was more confident/compitent sewing sometimes.
  • edited November 2012

    I've built a lot of solar tetroons-- they're hard to fly on a line and are not a replacement for helium, but if you have almost zero wind and let the balloon drift while walking under it, you can get some good results.
    my notes on them, assembly instructions, links to materials, etc. are here:

    don't bother with heptax for a solar hot air balloon its too thick, too expensive, and as mentioned, a pain to work with. get 12' wide "painter's plastic", 0.315mil HDPE sheeting.

    The edge of an iron makes great seams, especially if you use it against a straight edge. The iron will melt and cut the excess:

    Heptax can be worked with the same technique, except it won't cut the excess. It also needs a barrier of parchment paper or it will melt. Parchment paper can make HDPE sheeting seal faster too. just remember heptax is sided-- it will only seal on the side that it curls to. here are some friends of mine working it with a form:

    Charles, Marybeth and Chrissy got the balloon assembly line down #heptax
  • We are just starting to consider small helium balloons for use by children:
    using the small 720p HD 808#16 with wide-angle D lens:
    PLOTS is also into balloon work:
    and discusses the use of hydrogen:
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