One of my friends pointed me to an interesting tech article the other day: Western Digital is filling their hard drives with helium. Well that’s certainly noteworthy! Helium has all kinds of beneficial properties over regular “air”. But then he continued: “Man, this is going to make notebooks and tablets so much lighter!”
Yes, he honestly felt that the reason Western Digital was filling their drives with helium was to reduce the weight. They’re actually doing it to reduce the air resistance inside the drive so the platters spin more freely and the heads don’t have as much drag. There are also some thermal advantages. Add those all together and you get a drive that consumes less power — which is why they’re doing it.
Just a shave…
I didn’t tell him this, of course, I just let him go on about how we could fill our smartphones and tablets with helium and make them lighter. “You probably won’t be able to put enough (helium) in there to make them neutrally buoyant, but you could shave off an ounce or two, right?”
The Samsung Galaxy S III weighs in at approximately 4.7 ounces, so “shaving off a couple ounces” would almost cut the weight in half. Yeah, I don’t see that happening, but I didn’t tell him that.
What would a helium-filled device do for us?
Other than a really interesting item on the spec sheet, filling a device with helium would yield pretty much nothing. There’s not enough “empty space” inside our tech gadgets to fill with a significant amount of helium, and it takes quite a bit of helium to make anything float. How much helium? I tried to fasten helium filled balloons to my SGS3 to make it float. No, really, I did. After about twenty minutes and five bucks in helium balloons I didn’t have anything to show for my labors (not even a decent picture). I doubt anyone would go for a phone with a dozen balloons tethered to it just to make it lighter. I could be wrong.
At last! A viable reason! … or not.
The only advantage I could come up with for filling a solid-state device (like our phones and tablets) with helium would be effectively sealing it from the air (so the helium doesn’t leak out). This would essentially make the device waterproof, which is something I’d love to see more often. Fortunately there are easier ways to waterproof than filling your phone with helium.
If you talk to my friend about his “brilliant idea”, try and let him down easy.