Air Liquide has entered into a long-term agreement with Laurentis Energy Partners, a leader in the clean-energy industry, to produce and distribute helium-3 (3He). This molecule is a rare isotope of helium used in quantum computing, quantum science, astrophysics, neutron detection, medical imaging and, in the future, fusion. Thanks to this new partnership, Air Liquide will be able to deliver large quantities of helium-3 to its customers around the world.
Laurentis Energy Partners will extract helium-3 as a by-product of the energy produced by the Darlington power generating station in Canada. As an expert in gas management and extreme cryogenics, Air Liquide will purify the molecule, then package and distribute it to its customers globally.
The production will start by the end of this year. Helium-3 is a very rare and stable isotope of helium. Compared to the most common isotope (helium-4), helium-3 has unique physical properties, such as a lower liquefaction temperature. Thanks to this, helium-3 has a wide range of applications, from neutron detection for security gates to deep science where helium-3 allows to reach temperatures close to absolute zero. In particular, helium-3 is necessary to produce the ultra cold required by quantum computers that harness quantum physics to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers. The promise of quantum computing is accelerated development in many fields including the search for new drugs, the discovery of new materials, and even cyber defense. As a medical isotope, 3He can also be used to produce highly detailed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of airways in the lung.
Emilie Mouren-Renouard, Member of the Air Liquide Executive Committee, in charge of Innovation, Digital and IT, Intellectual Property and the Global Markets & Technologies World Business Unit, said: “One year after the acquisition of CryoConcept, specialized in technologies allowing to reach very low temperatures (close to absolute zero), this major agreement reinforces our core competencies when it comes to extreme cryogenics and deep tech, and illustrates our ambition to push back the frontiers of science. In particular, it enables us to offer our customers an ever more comprehensive range of products and services including helium-3 rare gas. It also confirms the willingness of Air Liquide to take part in the growing market driven by the quantum revolution and serve customers leveraging its expertise in the field of ultra low temperatures."