A team of materials scientists from the Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory, working with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, all in China, discovered that billions of years of exposure radiation had made the glass on the Moon harder.
In their article published in the journal Scientists progress, the group describes how they tested samples of lunar regolith brought to Earth by China’s Chang’e-5 lunar lander, then processed the samples to rejuvenate them for comparison.
Humans have been making glass for about 4,000 years; nature, on the other hand, has been doing it for billions of years. In this new effort, the research team studied glass that was made naturally on the Moon by meteoroid impacts and the melting of lunar regolith, some of which is billions of years old.
Previous research has shown that the Moon’s surface is littered with tiny pieces of glass, each of which has been subjected to cosmic rays and radiation from the Sun. In this new effort, the research team wanted to know what kind of impact such bombardment had on the lunar glass.
To find out, the researchers obtained five tiny pieces of glass brought back by the Chang’e-5 lunar lander, each no bigger than the width of a human hair. Each was studied using a transmission electron microscope, which gave the team an idea of its structure. They also squeezed each sample to see how they reacted to force. Both study methods gave researchers a baseline to learn more about the impact of aging on glass pieces.
The research team then subjected each of the glass samples to extreme heat: 650°C, for approximately five minutes. Such heat treatment was just enough to melt the glass, a treatment that the researchers believe returned the samples to their original shape. This allowed the researchers to compare the original shape of the glass with its current state, allowing them to see what billions of years of radiation had done to it.
By examining the differences, the research team discovered major changes in Young’s modulus, which tests how much force a material can withstand before it deforms: they saw changes of up to 70%. . They also found that the bombardment of radiation had made the glass harder.
Ziqiang Chen et al, Effects of aging on the geological time scales of lunar glasses, Scientists progress (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adi6086
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