China finds a new fuel and a new mineral on the Moon: Cambiite (Y)
China’s Chang’E-5 robotic lunar mission discovered a new mineraldescribed as a transparent crystal called Change (Y)and a possible fusion fuel.
A statement from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Atomic Energy Authority of that country announced and celebrated “the first new mineral discovered by China” and “the sixth ever discovered by humanity”. .
According to the Global Times agency, quoted on the Computer Hoy website, Cambiite (Y) is a kind of transparent and colorless columnar crystal and was discovered from an analysis of lunar basalt particles by a research team from the Beijing Uranium Geology Research Institute.
The analyzed sample was found among just 1,731 grams of lunar samples returned by the Chang’E 5 mission in 2020, the first lunar rocks to be returned to Earth since 1976.
The International Mineralogical Association confirmed that the Cambiite (Y) sample corresponds to that of a new mineral.
Helium-3, a promising fuel
In addition, the mission provided the first figures on the concentration of helium-3 in lunar dust and the researchers managed to define the extraction parameters to obtain this isotope from the returned samples.
With two protons and one neutronthis is the only known stable isotope of any element that has more protons than neutronsso that is a promising potential fuel for nuclear fusion.
According to the study and based on theory, a deuterium/helium-3 fusion reaction would release 164.3 megawatt hours of energy for every gram of helium-3. And most importantly, neither the isotope nor its reaction products are radioactive.
While there are difficulties in exploiting this fuel, such as the rarity of helium-3 on Earth, lunar helium mining is among China’s plans.