Africa-Press – Lesotho. Chinese researchers examining samples taken from the Moon’s surface have discovered a new type of mineral never seen before, as well as new samples to study of a promising fuel for nuclear fusion power plants.
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) and the China Atomic Energy Authority jointly announced in Beijing on Friday the discovery of Changesite-(Y), the sixth unique mineral identified on the lunar surface and the first found by Chinese scientists, according to China Daily. The rest were discovered by either the US or the Soviet Union, the only other countries to return samples from the Moon.
The particle of Changesite-(Y), a phosphate material, was just 10 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth the width of a human hair, according to Wang Xuejun, a party official with the CNNC.
CNSA distributed the samples to researchers for analysis beginning in July 2021, with the 17.5-gram samples going to 13 domestic research organizations working on 31 scientific projects.
“China has also become the third country to retrieve lunar samples and discover new lunar minerals after the US and Russia,” he said, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Moon has large amounts of helium-3, thanks to its exposure to solar wind, which Earth’s magnetic field prevents from interacting with the planet’s surface. Other places, such as the planet Juipter, have even higher quantities of helium-3. According to the European Space Agency, mining the gas is likely to become a major driving force behind future space exploration, especially by private companies.
China has become a major research hub for fusion power, with the technology being seen as key to both solving the global energy crisis and creating a realistic way to wean the global society off pollutive fossil fuels, the mining and burning of which contribute greatly to global warming.