China Finds Potential Fuel for Nuclear Fusion Energy on Surface of Moon
In December 2020, China's Chang'e-5 mission made history by returning samples from the surface of the moon back to Earth—the first time China had done so.
It also marked the first time lunar samples had been retrieved in more than 40 years.
Since then, scientists have been carefully studying the samples to work out what lunar dust is made of—a process that can provide insights into the formation of the early solar system.
This gives isotopes a different atomic mass but the same chemical properties as their base element.
Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope, and scientists have considered that it could be used as a fuel in future nuclear fusion reactors since it would not produce dangerous waste products.
Scientists have known that Helium-3 exists on the moon for decades; in 1986 they estimated there could be around one million tons of it stored in lunar soil.
A working reactor capable of powering a grid is believed to be decades away but incremental breakthroughs occur regularly.
Scientists have proposed using Helium-3 or other lunar materials as fuel for missions on the moon and beyond eliminating the need for fuel to be transported into space from Earth first.
He-3 could be a promising source of fuel for Earth's future fusion reactors since there are concerns that tritium a hydrogen isotope used as fuel in current reactor prototypes is running low on Earth