Nanoparticles in lunar soil
Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil properties.
Date: 12 June 2012
The lunar regolith sample studied in this work came from a depth of 15-18 cm below the
lunar surface and drilled and delivered to Earth by first ever automatic lunar mission “Luna
16” and has been obtained from the USSR Academy of Sciences [1,2,3].
A stunning new discovery by QUT soil scientist Marek Zbik of nanoparticles inside bubbles of glass in Russian lunar soil could solve the mystery of why the moon's surface topsoil has many unusual properties. Dr Zbik, from Queensland University of Technology's Science and Engineering Faculty, said scientists had long observed the strange behavior of lunar soil but had not taken much notice of the nano and submicron particles, which are usually called nanoparticles, found in the soil and their source was unknown.
It is interesting to note that some news outlets, for example TimeScience
, choose to hide the source of the lunar soil. Yet other news outlets, such as Australian ABC Science
, choose not to conceal the Russian origin of the soil used in Zbik research. These facts are significant in view that there is a considerable number of people who doubt the fact that the American expeditions have reach the Moon and have delivered any lunar soil to Earth.
Dr Zbik took the lunar soil samples to Taiwan where he could study the glass bubbles without breaking them using a new technique for studying nano materials call synchrotron-based nano tomography to look at the particles. Nano tomography is a transmission X-ray microscope which enables 3D images of nano particles to be made.
"We were really surprised at what we found," Dr Zbik said.
"Instead of gas or vapour inside the bubbles, which we would expect to find in such bubbles on Earth, the lunar glass bubbles were filled with a highly porous network of alien-looking glassy particles that span the bubbles' interior.
"It appears that the nano particles are formed inside bubbles of molten rocks when meteorites hit the lunar surface. Then they are released when the glass bubbles are pulverised by the consequent bombardment of meteorites on the moon's surface.
"This continuous pulverising of rocks on the lunar surface and constant mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth."
Nanoparticles behaved according to the laws of Heisenberg's quantum physics which are completely different from classical physics laws. Because of this, materials containing nanoparticles behave strangely.
"Nanoparticles are so tiny, it is their size and not what they are made of that accounts for their exceptional properties. It could be that these nanoparticles, when liberated from their glass bubble, mix with the other soil constituents and give lunar soil its unusual properties.
Historically, Faraday was the first to discovered nanoparticles, which was gold colloids in his case. He was the first to realize that the color of gold nanoparticles is determined by the size of the particles.
"Lunar soil is electro-statically charged so it hovers above the surface; it is extremely chemically active; and it has low thermal conductivity, so it can be, for example, 160 degrees above the surface but -40 degrees two meters below the surface.
"It is also very sticky and brittle such that its particles wear the surface off metal and glass."
Dr Zbik said the moon had no atmosphere to cushion the impact of meteorites like Earth had.
"When they hit the moon there is a very violent reaction. Huge temperatures are generated which melts the rock. The pressure goes and a vacuum is created. Bubbles occur in the molten glass rock like soft drink bubbles trying to escape the bottle.
"Our work now is to understand how those particles evolve from this process. It may also lead us to completely different way of manufacturing nanomaterials."
Dr Zbik and his research team's study was published in the International Scholarly Research Network Astronomy and Astrophysics.
To find out more and also view a 3D image from inside the lunar bubble using transmission X-Ray microscopy go to http://youtu.be/omRoS2SntMU . You can see what is inside the lunar bubble with 3D glasses.
Czerkasow, I.I., Schwarew, W.W. “Lunar Soil Science”. (in Russian), Nauka,
Grabowska-Olszewska, B., Zbik, M. „Lunar Soil Sample in Poland”. (in Polish,
English summary) Przeglad Geologiczny. PIG Warsaw No.7, 1984 pp. 418-420.
Zbik, M. “Features of Impact Metamorphism in Lunar Regolith Studies”. Bull. Pol.
Ac. Sc. Earth Sc.39, 1991 pp. 299-309.
Nanoparticles in lunar soil