Single Grain Of Lunar Dust Provides A Lot Of Data About The Moon

A nanoscopic bit of lunar dust, roughly as broad as a human hair, can currently be examined in the high-resolution atom by atom. Utilizing an advanced method dubbed APT (Atom Probe Tomography), scientists from the University of Chicago detailed how they discovered a way to preserve our limited sample of Moon rock.

The samples were collected during the well-known Apollo missions. It’s genuinely intriguing to imagine how something so little can possess so much data. As for APT, the innovative method that allows us such research is so sensitive, it can display such a small sample of fragments atom-by-atom, providing 3D analysis of the source.

Lunar Dust Seen Like Never-Before

To examine a particle of Moondust with APT, Jennika Greer, a geophysicist from the University of Chicago, made a needle-sized sample only some hundred atoms wide. She did that by carving that small pillar out of the grain with a centered bunch of charged atoms. “We can use the expression nanocarpentry. Like a carpenter shapes wood, we do it at the nanoscale to minerals,” explained Greer.

Then the atom probe kicked in. Utilizing a laser, the scientists tapped atoms off their needle-sized sample, gently one by one, observing them move and hit a detector plate. Some elements will move from the sample at various speeds, and such a thing let scientists examine the sample’s real structure and texture.

More Data Gathered From The Regolith

“This technique has such high sensitivity and resolution, you find things you wouldn’t find otherwise and only use up a small bit of the sample,” detailed Philip Heck, a geophysicist from the University of Chicago.

The results have already demonstrated NASA to allow some money from three-year research on Moondust, utilizing APT to quantify the level of space weathering and the water content. Unlike Earth, the Moon doesn’t possess a sky to secure it. And space is well-known as a dramatic and violent environment, especially with the big old Sun kicking down on it.