Chinese discover mineral on Moon that could be potential source of fuel for nuclear fusion

14 December 2022, 05:58 PM
The lunar soil contains a rare mineral that contains helium-3. (Photo:Arch88/Depositphotos)

The lunar soil contains a rare mineral that contains helium-3. (Photo:Arch88/Depositphotos)

A mineral discovered on the Moon by a Chinese rover and sample-return mission could open the way to harnessing the power of nuclear fusion for generating power

Changesite-(Y) was among 140,000 lunar samples delivered to Earth by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in 2020. After analysis by scientists from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, it was found that the crystal has a radius of about 10 microns, which is smaller than the width of a human hair.

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And China’s National Space Administration said Changesite-(Y) contains helium-3, which has long been considered a promising element for nuclear fusion.

The crystal is the sixth new mineral discovered in lunar samples and the first discovered by China.

With only two protons and one neutron, helium-3 is unique because it is the only known stable isotope of any element that has more protons than neutrons. It also produces less radioactive byproducts and nuclear waste than other atoms, making it an ideal fuel source for thermonuclear reactors.

Experts estimate that the Earth contains about 15 to 20 tons of helium-3, which is a fraction of the 1.1 million tons of helium-3 thought to be on the surface of the Moon. This isotope is abundant on the Moon due to the solar winds that blast the lunar surface, unobstructed by the Moon’s practically non-existent atmosphere.

China’s discovery of a crystal filled with helium-3 suggests that the surface of the moon could become the Persian Gulf of the future, adding more reason to go back to the Moon, as the development of clean fusion energy could literally change the world.

China is currently mapping helium-3 deposits on the dark side of the moon with the Chanye-4 mission. And if significant reserves of Changesite-(Y) are present, it could be mined as a source of helium-3 and sent back to Earth.

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