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View Full Version : Helium 3 from the moon is the dumbest I have ever heard



Drbuzz0
2007-Nov-05, 08:00 PM
I am getting so freakin tried of this. "Oh everyone wants to go to the moon for the helium three" or "China is looking at the moon because they can fufill their energy needs" or "It's going to be the He-3 which finally makes the moon profitable to mind"

Bull... rubish... stupid stupid stupid. And I really wish someone would point out the obvious flaws in their project.

Most importantly the fact that the helium-3 is supposed to power the energy producing fusion reactor. The... non-existent energy producing reacotor...

The economical energy source one that some scientists thing we may have within the next couple decades. The one that some scientist caution we may never have. Yeah... the one that may not even use helium-3 as a useful fuel.

Not to mention you don't have to go to the moon to get the stuff...

Hence, I made this post about the whole damn thing. Feel free to comment. It would be appreciated:

http://depletedcranium.com/?p=180

antoniseb
2007-Nov-05, 09:02 PM
Feel free to comment. It would be appreciated

I think we have a thread or two about this already. For what it's worth, I agree that it is a dubious excuse for going to the Moon, for most of the reasons you just laid out.

Romanus
2007-Nov-05, 10:26 PM
Agree with what's already been said; us getting excited over He-3 for energy now is like Becquerel getting excited about the possibility of nuclear submarines in 1896. Worse even, if using it turns out to be impractical.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-06, 01:04 AM
True, but the simple fact is that no one's actually going to the Moon for this stuff. Any "plans" to do so are as speculative at this point as building an interstellar probe. Right now NASA's plans involving the Moon only call for using it as a testing bed and possible staging area for a Mars mission. There are no concrete --or even styrofoam-- plans at all on anyone's schedule calling for the collection of He3. No plans for it have been seriously examined by any spacegoing power currently in existence.

It's not something you should waste one drop of sweat worrying about. It's not a "waste", because that implies there has actually been some effort relating to it. There hasn't.

Ilya
2007-Nov-06, 02:21 AM
Some time in mid-80's I had a similar conversation about getting tritium for fusion reactors (D-T fusion is the easiest to achieve, AFAIK). I pointed out that to get macroscopic quantities of tritium all you need to do is put a lithium blanket around a fission reactor. The response I got: "The whole point of fusion is to get rid of fission reactors!"

No, the point of fusion reactors is to produce energy. Which they won't do without a lot of support structure, incuding some source of D, T, or He3. Apparently the concept of "synergy" is beyond some people.

MentalAvenger
2007-Nov-06, 03:48 AM
So how difficult would it be to get He3 from the Moon as compared to getting it from Earth? (Assuming comparable manufacturing plants in place and operating in both locations).

Noclevername
2007-Nov-06, 04:28 AM
So how difficult would it be to get He3 from the Moon as compared to getting it from Earth? (Assuming comparable manufacturing plants in place and operating in both locations).

No way to know, because by the time we can use it, technology will have changed so much that any predictions we make now will be hopelessly dated.

Launch window
2007-Nov-06, 04:38 AM
And I really wish someone would point out the obvious flaws in their project.



I agree that the Moon is not a good target for colonization, Mars has a near 24 hour day, lots of water and after the US pays millions try to get back to the Moon they will have blow a lots of cash that could have been used to put people on Mars and the US public will quickly get bored with tv re-runs of 1969, the MTV generation will say "Oh that is so out of fashion and last century". Astronauts like Glenn and Aldrin also favor skipping the Moon and moving on to Mars. The Moon, doesn't invite but Mars does says Aldrin.

Getting helium-3 from the Moon would be very costly but the fusion theory is sound. Fusion may soon become a soon source of power over the next few years as the ITER reactor comes online in France creating 450 plus MW of power. It's an international agreement between the US, Russia, Japan and EU which can help produce future electricity-producing fusion power plants. Of course there are critics that dismiss the whole thing as a white elephant but its way to soon to make a conclusion on this future power source.

Ronald Brak
2007-Nov-06, 07:07 AM
So how difficult would it be to get He3 from the Moon as compared to getting it from Earth? (Assuming comparable manufacturing plants in place and operating in both locations).

It's much easier to get it from the earth but supplies are rather limited. Typically it is just vented into the atmosphere when natural gas is extracted. The fact that no one is capturing it and storing it suggests no one is taking He3 reactors seriously. (The U.S. used to store Helium, but no longer does. I'm not sure why they did. Maybe it was so they could beat Germany if a new blimp race started.)

JonClarke
2007-Nov-06, 07:34 AM
Helium is a highly valuable commodity for a wide range of uses - balloon inflation, cooling of high temperature reactors, metallurgy, deep, diving, pressurisation of rocket and missile tanks. Many of these uses could be considered highgly strategic. However, the US helium reserve was a billion or so in debt by the late 90's and so it was required to be sold off as a privitisation scheme, starting in 2005, I think.

Jon

eburacum45
2007-Nov-06, 10:38 AM
What is the fraction of Helium3 in helium extracted from the Earth? Not very high, if I recall correctly.
Here is wikipedia on the subject:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium3#Terrestrial_occurrence

Extracting helium-3 from these sources consumes more energy than fusion would release. Extraction from the most efficient source, natural gas, consumes ten times the energy available from fusion reactions.

So He3 extraction would never be economic on Earth, if that is correct.
In the next section we find:

Because of the low concentrations of helium-3, any mining equipment would need to process large amounts of regolith,[22] and some proposals have suggested that helium-3 extraction be piggybacked onto a larger mining and development operation.[citation needed]
I have always wondered about that- He3 extraction on the Moon could be worthwhile if it happens during large scale mining for other resources- such as aluminium, iron, silicon or oxygen, all of which are abundant.

But that would require that the mineral processing of lunar material is carried out inside a hermetically sealed container, or the helium will just escape as soon as the material is crushed. I don't know how realistic that is.

Secondly, I seem to recall that the He3 is only in the regolith- you wouldn't get it if you mined lunar bedrock.

Finally I doubt that it would ever be economic to export He3 to Earth; at the end of the shipping process, the ratio of energy returned over energy expended would probably be less than one, so there would be no point in the exercise. Perhaps lunar He3 could be useful on the Moon, or in nearby space colonies, or something.

grant hutchison
2007-Nov-06, 12:43 PM
Helium is a highly valuable commodity for a wide range of uses - balloon inflation, cooling of high temperature reactors, metallurgy, deep, diving, pressurisation of rocket and missile tanks.Largest single use these days is for cooling medical MRI scanners. If you amble around the roof of any big hospital you'll find the emergency helium outlet, festooned with warning signs, which will release a blast of very cold gas if the helium containment of the MRI overheats.

Grant Hutchison

Ilya
2007-Nov-06, 01:03 PM
It's much easier to get it from the earth but supplies are rather limited. Typically it is just vented into the atmosphere when natural gas is extracted. The fact that no one is capturing it and storing it suggests no one is taking He3 reactors seriously. (The U.S. used to store Helium, but no longer does. I'm not sure why they did. Maybe it was so they could beat Germany if a new blimp race started.)

Read the link in Drbuzzo's OP for how to make helium-3, using byproduct of nuclear fission.

Ronald Brak
2007-Nov-06, 01:22 PM
Read the link in Drbuzzo's OP for how to make helium-3, using byproduct of nuclear fission.

I have no idea how much it costs to get helium 3 from tritium (although it's free if you just have tritium lying around). I wouldn't be surprised if it's easier than extracting the 0.000137% or so of helium atoms that are He3 on earth. But extracting those atoms from earth helium would still be much easier than trying to extract it from lunar regolith.

Drbuzz0
2007-Nov-06, 04:18 PM
I have no idea how much it costs to get helium 3 from tritium (although it's free if you just have tritium lying around). I wouldn't be surprised if it's easier than extracting the 0.000137% or so of helium atoms that are He3 on earth. But extracting those atoms from earth helium would still be much easier than trying to extract it from lunar regolith.

The helium-3 supply as it exists today (and the stuff does exist you can buy it from a specialty isotope supplier.. It's kinda expensice but it does exist).. comes entirely from harvesting it off of tritium reserves.

It's a natural biproduct of reprocessing the tritium (primarly from nuclear weapons). You have to do this anyway. The tritium capsules need to be replaced and doing so they recover the remaining tritium and reconcentrate it.

It's actually pretty easy. Tritium is a hydrogen isotope. As such, it reacts with quite a few things so you can use any traditional hydrogen scavenger to bind it. Helium is an inert gas, so it will be left. Brutally simple chemical process.


Funny thing is I don't think anyone knows how much helium-3 we actually can produce. The DOD will sell the stuff at an artificial price and whatnot, but the actual reserves are not something they'll talk about because by inferring that you can determine some things about how many tritium-boosted nukes we have and that's considered sensitive stratigic info. The Russians do about the same.

Drbuzz0
2007-Nov-06, 04:30 PM
Oh one more thing. According to Wikipedia the current supply of tritium in the United States is roughly 75 kilograms (of course, more could be produced) and the amount produced since major production started in the 1950's is 225 Kg, most of which is lost due to continuous decay. That means that assuming that it was all recovered, a 150 kilogram supply of helium-3 was produced in this time as a biproduct.

225kg doesn't sound like a lot, but this is a hydrogen isotope, so it's pretty lightweight. That is actually quite a bit by volume. More could be easily made if it were a priority. To start collecting sizable amounts of he-3, you'd just need a few years lead-time.

So in a manner of speaking we do "have tritium lying around"


Another source, however, stated that there's only 25 pounds of tritium in the world supply. However that source was Dr. Octopus in Spiderman II.

I'm not sure whether you consider Wikipedia or a Spiderman movie the more reliable source of information, but I guess you could make a good case for either..

Noclevername
2007-Nov-06, 07:20 PM
Another source, however, stated that there's only 25 pounds of tritium in the world supply. However that source was Dr. Octopus in Spiderman II.

I'm not sure whether you consider Wikipedia or a Spiderman movie the more reliable source of information, but I guess you could make a good case for either.

:lol::lol::lol:

KaiYeves
2007-Nov-10, 07:20 PM
Helium 3 from the moon is the dumbest (thing?) I have ever heard
No, this is the dumbest thing you have ever heard:
Alkkdhjfslkdfjkasqierulfjksjmbnncklflsdjf!

Omicron Persei 8
2007-Nov-10, 09:04 PM
No, this is the dumbest thing you have ever heard:
Alkkdhjfslkdfjkasqierulfjksjmbnncklflsdjf!

Touche!

Noclevername
2007-Nov-10, 10:15 PM
Just browse the Conspiracy Theory and Against the Mainstream threads, you'll find plenty of dumber things.

KaiYeves
2007-Nov-11, 01:57 AM
Just browse the Conspiracy Theory and Against the Mainstream threads, you'll find plenty of dumber things.
I was making a Jimmy Neutron reference.

Noclevername
2007-Nov-11, 05:06 AM
I was making a Jimmy Neutron reference.

I stand by my snarky statement. ;)

publiusr
2007-Dec-07, 07:38 PM
We may need a new source of helium of any kind if we keep wasting it on party balloons...