Moon: the Chinese discover a new mineral and study helium-3 for nuclear fusion

The Chinese mission Chang’E-5 did not only discover the presence of water molecules on the Moonbut also a new minerala transparent crystal renamed Changesite- (Y)but also investigated the possibility of using thehelium-3 how fuel for nuclear fusion. The announcement was made by the China National Space Administration and China Atomic Energy.

Changesite- (Y) was defined byagency encircled Xinhuaa kind of transparent and colorless columnar crystal. was discovered by an analysis of the lunar basalt particles by a research group of the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation “.

The analyzed sample was traced in 1.73 kilograms of lunar samples brought back to Earth two years ago. It is a single crystal particle with a radius of about 10 microns. The Changesite- (Y) the sixth mineral discovered on the Moon since man set foot there.

The analyzes carried out by the Chinese researchers also produced data on concentration of helium-3 in the moon dustallowing the deduction of “extraction parameters“needed to collect this isotope from the returned samples. Helium-3, consisting of two protons and a single neutron, is the only stable isotope that has more protons than neutrons, considered a promising potential fuel for nuclear fusion.

Made up of two protons and a single neutronand the only stable isotope that has more protons than neutrons, helium-3 in theory allows a deuterium / helium-3 fusion reaction capable of releasing 164.3 megawatt-hours of energy per gram of helium-3 and, above all, neither the helium-3 nor its reaction products are radioactive, facilitating the management of waste.

The problem that a helium-3 fusion reactor has operate at much higher temperatures compared to a tritium reactor and helium-3 extremely rare and difficult to isolate on Earthso much so that about 15 kilograms a year are obtained mainly from the tritium decay of nuclear warheads.

Used by the United States in neutron detectors that scan nuclear materials at borders, helium-3 has achieved on the back of demand and scarcity. 17,500 dollars per grambut as demand is expected to grow in the future, many believe that lunar mining will have to be done sooner or later.

The surface of our satellite is expected to contain up to 1.1 million tons of helium-3. According to the International Policy Digest, there is talk of about 1.5 trillion dollars and, according to the head of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program Ouyang Ziyuan, “every year, three space shuttle missions could bring enough fuel for all beings. humans all over the world “.

Between saying and doing there are Space and astronomical costs to kick off a a mining operation on the Moon. In fact, we speak of processing 150 tons of regolith to obtain 1 gram of helium-3. Add to this the costs of returning helium-3 to Earth.


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