Researchers in China have discovered a new type of crystal nestled among the volcanic debris of the near side of the moon, as well as a potential fuel source that could help revolutionize the production of clean and efficient energy on Earth.
The small, transparent crystal — named Changesite-(Y), after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e — is more than a billion years old and is as wide as a human hair, according to Global Times, a Chinese state-run news site. In early September, researchers with the International Mineralogical Association confirmed that the tiny moon crystal has a never-before-seen composition and is related to other minerals found only on the moon or in meteors.
However, the teeny crystal was not the only remarkable find in the Chang’e-5 moon rock haul. Among the roughly 140,000 lunar particles analyzed, scientists also found traces of helium-3 — a version of the element helium that is exceptionally rare on Earth but is believed to be abundant on the moon. For decades, scientists have been intrigued by helium-3 as a potential source of fuel for nuclear fusion — a type of energy production that occurs when two light atoms merge into a heavier one under extreme heat and pressure.
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