What Are Helium Leak Detectors?

Leak test pressure

Leak testing is a vital process in many industries, helping companies from the automotive industry to the medical device field avoid problems in their products and assure consumers of their quality. Unfortunately, because a variety of leak testing methods are available, it can be difficult to know which leak detection process you should use to test your products. For this reason, it is typically recommended that manufacturers speak to leak testing specialists about their requirements and needs. However, if you are looking to better understand this important service, read on to learn more about one of the most common leak detection systems used today: helium leak detectors.

What is Helium Leak Detection?
Helium leak detectors are used to find and measure the size of leaks in systems and containers. While a number of different tracer gases can be used to determine the size of a leak, helium is favored because it has one of the smallest atomic sizes, allowing it to easily pass through leaks. Moreover, while other gases, such as hydrogen, have smaller atomic sizes, helium is also inert, non-toxic, non-condensable and non-flammable. This makes helium leak detectors safe, as well as effective.

Helium can be used as a tracer gas in a number of different leak detection systems, but the most common types are vacuum testing and pressure testing. In a vacuum leak test, the process searches for large volume leaks or smaller leaks within the product by administering the tracer gas to the suspected leak itself. In contrast, pressure leak tests search for leaks generally by pressurizing the product with a combination of helium or helium and oxygen. Suspected leak sites are then scanned. Whatever method is being used, however, helium leak detectors can be used to check everything from packaging to products themselves.

Problems With Helium Leak Detection
While helium is one of the most common and effective tracer gases used in leak detection, it has one significant disadvantage: price. Although helium is one of the most common gases, it is only present in the atmosphere in trace amounts and must be drawn from underground reserves. In past years, this was not a problem, especially for American businesses, as countries like United States had vast reserves of the gas. However, experts now expect these supplies to disappear in a matter of years, a prediction which caused helium prices to rise dramatically. Currently, this increase has abated slightly, as countries like Qatar have invested in the production of this gas. But even these stores are finite. For this reason, a number of companies have turned to air leak testing, which is a similarly advantageous tracer gas, with the added benefit of being much more affordable and easy to obtain. Is air leak testing right for you? Ask a leak testing specialist today.

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