Can we harness energy from our beautiful moon?

15 Aug

When I think of China I think advanced, innovative and creative yet their new idea sounds like the story line from a sci-fi movie set in space! They are considering mining the moon in order to meet our energy demands…say what? It is widely argued by some scientists that the moon contains so much Helium 3, that the world’s energy needs could be met for at least the next 10,000 years.

Basically Helium 3 is an extremely cherished isotope that could be used in clean fusion plants to produce energy – and it’s available in huge quantities on the moon. Now isotopes are variants of a particular chemical element. While all isotopes of a given element share the same number of protons, each isotope differs from the others in its number of neutrons. The number of nucleons (protons and neutrons) in the nucleus is the mass number, and each /isotope of a given element has a different mass number. Was that the lunch bell? In short an atom with the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons.

Well what on earth is helium 3 I hear you ask? Well if you don’t you should because it’s a light, non-radioactive Isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Making sense? It’s deposited upon the moon’s surface by solar winds, and is available in relative abundance. Helium 3 is uncommon on Earth because our planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field inhibit deposits from reaching the surface.

Fabrizio Bozzato, a doctoral candidate at the University of Tamkan in Taiwan, recently wrote that Helium 3 could be extracted by heating lunar dust to around 600°C, before bringing it back to the Earth. He estimates that the gas has a potential economic value of $3 billion (USD) a ton, and according to experts in the US, the total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about $20 (USD) billion over two decades.

China is yet to set any concrete plans regarding the farming of Helium 3 from the moon’s surface. At this point they have expressed an interest and if they do put this into action, they insist it will be for the benefit of humanity…ahh bless em’.

This in theory is a great idea but China would have a monopoly over the resource and rightly so if other countries don’t step up to the plate and take this forward as a joint venture. We only need to watch some more sci-fi movies to guess how this could end!

 

 

 

 

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