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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jun 4;116(23):11165-11170. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1819600116. Epub 2019 May 20.

Untangling the formation and liberation of water in the lunar regolith.

Author information

1
Department of Chemistry, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822.
2
W. M. Keck Laboratory in Astrochemistry, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822.
3
Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822 gillis@higp.hawaii.edu ralfk@hawaii.edu.
4
Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822.
5
Department of Chemistry, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822; gillis@higp.hawaii.edu ralfk@hawaii.edu.

Abstract

The source of water (H2O) and hydroxyl radicals (OH), identified on the lunar surface, represents a fundamental, unsolved puzzle. The interaction of solar-wind protons with silicates and oxides has been proposed as a key mechanism, but laboratory experiments yield conflicting results that suggest that proton implantation alone is insufficient to generate and liberate water. Here, we demonstrate in laboratory simulation experiments combined with imaging studies that water can be efficiently generated and released through rapid energetic heating like micrometeorite impacts into anhydrous silicates implanted with solar-wind protons. These synergistic effects of solar-wind protons and micrometeorites liberate water at mineral temperatures from 10 to 300 K via vesicles, thus providing evidence of a key mechanism to synthesize water in silicates and advancing our understanding on the origin of water as detected on the Moon and other airless bodies in our solar system such as Mercury and asteroids.

KEYWORDS:

Moon; solar wind; water

PMID:
31110011
PMCID:
PMC6561281
[Available on 2019-11-20]
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1819600116

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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