My last post was on Helium and as promised this one would focus on how Helium is actually obtained. I was really surprised to find out that Helium is actually mined and not extracted directly from the air.
The reason why it is mined is because it is found in far higher concentrations (than in the atmosphere) with in natural gas – natural gas can actually contain up to 7% Helium 1.
The Helium is extracted (as I thought) – by fractional distillation of the natural gas but as it has the lowest boiling point of all the other elements and compounds it is the last substance to be obtained. Activated charcoal is used as a final purification step.
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium#Modern_extraction_and_distribution – accessed on 23td October, 2012.