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This work was done to develop a simple, portable helium analyzer primarily for field use. Its utility lies in making preliminary surveys before exact analyses are required.
The analyzer developed is based upon chromatographic principles; that is, separation of gas mixtures due to variable retention times of the components with respect to a separation medium (column packing material). It uses thermistors for sensing detectors, a dry battery as source of power, and a microammeter for the indication of helium concentration.
The absolute accuracy of the instrument is dependent upon the recency and care with which the instrument is calibrated with a standard gas. It is suggested that the unknown gas be analyzed immediately after calibration and another calibration be made before another unknown sample is analyzed.
The instrument is simple to operate, requiring approximately 15 minutes, after calibration, to determine the helium content in a natural gas sample.
Although developed primarily for helium determination, the analyzer possibly con be utilized for other analyses that can be performed at ambient temperatures.
Prior to this project, there were three instruments generally used for the determination of helium concentration in gas mixtures. They were the mass spectrometer, the gas chromatograph, and the Frost, apparatus. All three of these instruments require the use of 110-volt ac public service power. Mass spectrometers are heavy and too delicate for field operation because of highly fragile and sensitive components. The Frost apparatus is not ideally suited for field use because it is constructed mainly of glass. It also would require a supply of liquid nitrogen in the field for operation. Gas chromatographs normally require the use of a bulky recorder for readout; the recorder is often larger than the remaining components of the chromatograph. It can thus be seen that a more practical analytical tool was needed for field use.
The instrument is 9 by 7 by 12 inches in size and weighs 16 pounds. It contains all the equipment necessary for its operation with the exception of gas cylinders for carrier and calibrating gas. These cylinders weigh an additional 17 pounds.