Posted by: drgeophysics | October 22, 2009

Helium 3 from the Moon—cash value $4 billion a ton

From Wiki Helium 3 description

The fusion reaction rate increases rapidly with temperature until it maximizes and then gradually drops off. The DT rate peaks at a lower temperature (about 70 keV, or 800 million kelvins) and at a higher value than other reactions commonly considered for fusion energy.

Put your Tin Hats firmly on and check these links.  Buried in the NASA plans for the Moon are points related to Helium 3.  Helium 3 is an isotope of Helium useful in, are you sitting down, fusion reactors.

However, the appeal of helium-3 fusion stems from the nature of its reaction products. Helium-3 itself is non-radioactive. The lone high-energy by-product, the proton, can be contained using electric and magnetic fields. The momentum energy of this proton (created in the fusion process) will interact with the containing electromagnetic field, resulting in direct net electricity generation.

The amounts of helium-3 needed as a replacement for conventional fuels should not be underestimated. The total amount of energy produced in the 21H32He reaction is 18.4 MeV, which corresponds to some 493 megawatt-hours8 W·h) per three grams (one mole) of ³He. Even if that total amount of energy could be converted to electrical power with 100% efficiency (a physical impossibility), it would correspond to about 30 minutes of output of a thousand-megawatt electrical plant; a year’s production by the same plant would require some 17.5 kilograms of helium-3 (4.93×10.”

Potentially industrial scaled nuclear fusion is a dream energy source, if, and this is a very big if, the proper isotopes are available.  I don’t take this seriously, having heard of nuclear fusion, (or the myth of fusion my entire life), but I found these articles fascinating.  Who knows, maybe this is the idea of the century.

Wired gets into the Helium 3 rumor game.

Other countries get interested in Lunar Helium 3.

ABC (the good ABC, the Australia Broadcasting Network) describes Helium 3. writes about Helium 3 and pours very cold water over the hype.

This trippy video from Discovery Channel adds weird music and some neat Apollo era clips to the Helium 3 story.

What is Helium 3 — Wiki to the rescue– check this site to learn about  the isotope and it’s unique chemical and physical properties. Please note that the quotes above are taken from the Wiki page for Helium-3.

Couple of youtube segments about Helium 3.

This is very interesting. The review board that presented this opportunity included Harrison Schmitt, who is interviewed in the two youtube segments. I had the honor of meeting at a reception and attending a lecture by Harrison Schmitt, the Apollo 17 astronaut. He holds the long distance Lunar driving record (22 miles) and is a dynamic speaker. If he thinks there is something here, that’s good enough for me.


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