Using nano tomography, researchers were surprised to discover that the bubble-like microstructures found in lunar soil were quite unlike similar structures found on Earth.
stunning discovery by QUT soil scientist Marek Zbik of nano particles
inside bubbles of glass in lunar soil could solve the mystery of why the
moon’s surface topsoil has many unusual properties.
Zbik, from Queensland University of Technology’s Science and
Engineering Faculty, said scientists had long observed the strange
behaviour of lunar soil but had not taken much notice of the nano and
submicron particles found in the soil and their source was unknown.
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.
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’
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.
continuous pulverising of rocks on the lunar surface and constant
mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth.”
Zbik said nano particles behaved according to the laws of quantum
physics which were completely different from so called ‘normal’ physics’
laws. Because of this, materials containing nano particles behave
strangely according to our current understanding.
“Nano particles are so tiny, it is their size and not what they are made of that accounts for their exceptional properties.
don’t understand a lot about quantum physics yet but it could be that
these nano particles, when liberated from their glass bubble, mix with
the other soil constituents and give lunar soil its unusual properties.
soil is electro-statically charged so it hovers above the surface; it
is extremely chemically active; and it has low thermal conductivity eg
it can be 160 degrees above the surface but -40 degrees two metres below
“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.
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.
work now is to understand how those particles evolve from this process.
It may also lead us to completely different way of manufacturing
Dr Zbik and his research team’s study was published in the International Scholarly Research Network Astronomy and Astrophysics.