By: April Carson
In a surprise development, China has discovered a mineral from the Moon that it hadn't previously known existed, while also confirming that the moon's surface contains a key component for nuclear fusion, which could be used to generate effectively limitless power by harnessing the same forces that drive the Sun and other stars.
The crystal is one of many lunar samples China's Chang'e-5 mission gathered in 2020. The space program landed on the moon, loaded up rocks (roughly four pounds), and delivered them to Earth within a few days. Sifting through the Moon rocks which were returned to Earth in 1976, a single crystal particle was spotted by scientists at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology. The particle's diameter is smaller than the width of a human hair.
But don't get too excited just yet. Even if we could harness nuclear fusion on Earth, it would take quite a bit of energy to get the process started. So while the crystal is an important step forward, there's still a lot of work to be done before we can start using the moon as an energy source.
This new discovery could help answer one of the key questions surrounding nuclear fusion: what is the best material to use as a "fuel" to sustain the reaction?
The crystal is made of the Changesite—(Y), a novel mineral named after the Chinese Moon goddess, Chang’e. According to the Chinese government-run publication Global Times, the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) confirmed it as a new mineral on Friday.
China has discovered a new mineral on the Moon, which is the first new discovery in six years and only the third by any country. The news was reported by China National Space Administration (CNSA) geologist Changlete—(Y), who found the transparent crystal while exploring a region of the northern lunar near-face that is known to have been volcanically active about 1.2 billion years ago.
State media reports that the new lunar samples also include helium-3, a less common element of helium. Scientists have been interested in it for a while because it has potential to be used as nuclear fusion fuel source. Theoretically, this variant of power would utilize energy generated by atoms that combine at tremendous pressures, such as those found within stars. Nuclear fusion produces a wide range of interesting by-products, one of which is light.
Although the technology to harness nuclear fusion is still in development, finding a natural source of helium-3 would be an incredible boon to the energy industry. The element is incredibly rare on Earth, but is thought to be much more common on the moon.
Although it is not yet a reality, if future reactors do utilize helium-3 fuel, it would be beneficial because less radioactive byproducts and nuclear waste are produced. Helium-3 is very rare to find on Earth, but is present in high quantities on the Moon; this has led people to entertain ideas of mining for the material on the lunar surface.
China has expressed interest in extracting resources from the Moon, alongside other nations such as the United States. The country has made significant advancements in its space program and aims to be a leading power in the field.
In 2015, China landed a probe on the dark side of the Moon, which was a historic achievement. The next step for the nation is to build a permanent base on the lunar surface; this is part of China's long-term plan to explore and exploit the Moon's resources.
One of the key resources that China is interested in is helium-3; this is a rare isotope of helium that is not only difficult to find on Earth, but is present in high quantities on the Moon. This has led people to entertain ideas of mining for the material on the lunar surface.
The finding was published in the American Mineralogist, a leading international journal in Earth and planetary science.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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