Hydrogen as an alternative to Helium

As the Helium shortage continues to grow, Helium prices are rocketing sky high and in some cases companies are being told they can not get any.

Are you one of them?

Helium is a by-product from only a few underground, natural gas wells in the world. Most of the Helium present today was created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements, such as Thorium and Uranium, making it a non-renewable resource.

What options do you have?

  1. Purifying a lower grade of Helium to get Ultra High Purity Helium
  2. Changing carrier gases


Purifying a lower grade of Helium to get Ultra High Purity Helium

  • Many people have asked us, if they can use various filters/traps and heated getter assemblies to filter and purify industrial grade Helium. This is possible, but filters/traps are intended to clean up minor contamination (ppm level), they are not intended to take the gas to a higher purity level. The heated getter assembly can be used to increase the purity of a gas and is used most commonly with PDD detectors, which are extremely sensitive. Please note that heated getter assemblies are designed to work with high purity gases and not lower purity gases.
  • As industrial grade/balloon grade helium is of a lower purity.  It is assumed that it contains higher moisture and hydrocarbon levels along with other contaminants, to the level of 100’s – 1000’s of ppm. With this assumption in mind, the biggest concerns are that you would be changing the traps and getter assemblies more frequently, increasing your overall consumable costs, making the gases even more expensive.

Changing Carrier Gases

  • The best and most efficient option
  • There are two choices: move to Nitrogen or Hydrogen.
  • The use of Nitrogen is discouraged as it is a heavier gas. Which in-turn would make your analysis runs longer.
  • Hydrogen is the better choice as it is lighter, allowing you to increase the linear flow rate which in turn means shorter runs.
  • Hydrogen will allow you to achieve separations at lower temperatures, which in turn will decrease the column bleed and increase the column life.

Related Topic: Making the change from gas canister to gas generator

Hydrogen is becoming increasingly popular as a GC carrier gas.  Concerns about its safe use in a chromatographic environment have slowed its earlier adoption.   Given that it often speeds up run times, and offers a stable solution to helium supply concerns, its use should be re-examined.  Products have been developed to address the safety concerns surrounding the use and supply of helium, and much work has been done recreating methods to eliminate the risk of explosion.

Chromatographic Specialties can help you not only decide if hydrogen makes sense for you, but to facilitate the conversion too.


The limited availability of Helium and rising prices has been exacerbated by the sale of the Federal Helium Reserve which supplies 30% of USA’s helium.

Read the article below for more details. We will closely monitor this situation and continue to expand our solutions to help you reduce your reliance on Helium.



  • How to convert from Helium to Hydrogen as a carrier gas in Gas Chromatography - click here