Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil behaviour

Jun 12, 2012
Dr Marek Zbik

(Phys.org) -- A stunning discovery by Queensland University of Technology soil scientist Marek Zbik of nanoparticles inside bubbles of glass in 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 behaviour of but had not taken much notice of the nano and submicron particles found in the soil and their source was unknown.

Dr Zbik took the lunar 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 nanoparticles to be made.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
View a 3D image from inside the lunar bubble using transmission X-Ray microscopy. You can see what is inside the lunar bubble with 3D glasses.

"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 nanoparticles are formed inside bubbles of molten rocks when meteorites hit the lunar . 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 and constant mixing develop a type of soil which is unknown on Earth."

Dr Zbik said nanoparticles behaved according to the laws of quantum physics which were completely different from so called 'normal' physics' laws. Because of this, materials containing nanoparticles behave strangely according to our current understanding.

"Nanoparticles are so tiny, it is their size and not what they are made of that accounts for their exceptional properties.

"We don't understand a lot about quantum physics yet but 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.

"Lunar 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 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 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.

Explore further: Tidal forces gave moon its shape, according to new analysis

Related Stories

The indiscretions of a champagne bubble paparazzi

Feb 14, 2012

The innermost secrets of champagne bubbles are about to be unveiled in the Springer journal European Physical Journal ST. This fascinating work is the brainchild of Gérard Liger-Belair, a scientist tackli ...

LRO observes final lunar eclipse of the year

Dec 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Orbiting 31 miles above the lunar surface, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft will get a "front-row seat" to the total lunar eclipse on Dec. 10, 2011.

Recommended for you

Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

4 hours ago

In their quest to understand life's potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's moon, ...

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

6 hours ago

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn ...

NASA's IceCube no longer on ice

10 hours ago

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ScottyB
3 / 5 (4) Jun 12, 2012
maybe it will lead to a way to repulse these particles to stop them from sticking to space suits / machinery?
Blakut
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2012
Low thermal conductivity => good for building moon iglooes.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2012
This material about the lunar soil "hovering above the surface" and being so chemically active doesn't seem to have been widely disseminated before this. It seems to have been rather determinedly withheld. It doesn't seem surprising, anymore, to have unusual and all but denied phenomena, in both "science" and government, be revealed every day.
Jonseer
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2012
This material about the lunar soil "hovering above the surface" and being so chemically active doesn't seem to have been widely disseminated before this. It seems to have been rather determinedly withheld.....


Um no you are quite wrong.

It has been IGNORED, but not withheld.

I read about it decades ago, but NOT in the mass media.

Instead I read about the details of these lunar phenomena in magazines like Sci Am or Astronomy or Discover quite often in stories detailing the preparations for follow up manned lunar landings as well as while preparing for the first probes to land on Mars. No one knew what to expect the first time.

The mainstream media however did mostly ignore the details of the landing and focus on the "human" emotional experience. That context didn't have a place to fit the bizarre soils of the moon so the mass media ignored it.

If you did read those magazines, then you missed it. It wasn't like it was always part of a story in every issue.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2012
So, if the above theory is correct, then there's enough of the nano sized material present in the soil to influence the bulk characteristics of the soil. Taking this idea to the next logical step, from academic science to applied science might be intersting. Who knows what might be possible in terms of practical applications. For instance, if you use the lunar material as an agregate in some building material like concrete, does this affect the finished material, and in what way? Does this nano material present a health risk to human colonists (probably does, since everything seems to kill us. lol)? If the theories regarding water in shadowed craters is correct, does this mean that the water is likely to be contaminated with nanoparticles, and does that render the water unusable for practical purposes?

Every answer seems to ask 10 new questions, doesn't it?