While it’s not used in major quantities, helium is important for cutting-edge physics research. Particle accelerators like the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab facility near Chicago and CERN’s Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland, accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light and smash them into each other. When they collide, they break into smaller fragments, releasing energy in the form of heat and radiation. Supercooled helium is used to keep the magnets which run these accelerators cool, and keep the heat the reactions produce under control.
(PHOTOS: Inside CERN: The Place Where Particles Fly)
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