HELIUM 3 - WATER POLLUTION
Helium 3: The Future Of Power Generation In A Cost
Effective Way Without Air Or Water Pollution
Two protons and one neutron constitute a Helium 3 atom, an isotope of Helium.
This non-radioactive isotope is not very abundant on earth, but the same is
believed to be found in abundance on the moon. Helium 3 is considered as a vital
requirement in the field of nuclear fusion research. Helium 3 has its importance as
a second generation source for fusion power. The importance of Helium 3 has not remained
confined to the filed of scientific researches alone, but it has made its way to
the lives of ordinary people.
As mentioned earlier, Helium 3 is rare on Erath and so it has to be manufactured.
Tritium decays during its 12 year half-life to give rise to its byproduct, Helium 3.
Bombardment of lithium, boron or nitrogen targets within neutrons lead to the production
of neutron. With increasing importance of Helium 3 , this manufacturing process has the
potential to create a separate industry. Helium 3 is also used to attain very low
temperatures to the tune of .2 to .3 Kelvin in a Helium 3 refrigerator.
Cryogenic temperatures as low as few thousands of a Kelvin can be reached with a dilution
refrigerator which deploys a mixture of Helium 3 and Helium-4. Heluim-3, in a polarized form,
can be used in medical lung imaging. For this purpose, the magnetized gas has to be stored at
10 atm pressure for 100 hours. This gas has to be inhaled and an MRI scanner can capture images
of the mixture present in the gas. This would help in obtaining breath by breath images of lung
ventilation and that too in real time! But this experimental procedure is still under study.
The surface of the moon contains enough Helium 3 on the order of .01 ppm.
Gerald Kulcinski along with many others has suggested mining of lunar
regolith right from 1986. Mining equipments should be able to process
large amounts of regolith and this would require a broader mining and
development operation by major space companies. Chinese cosmochemist
and geochemist Ouyang Ziyuan, who heads the Chinese Lunar Exploration
Program, said that the program should be targeted towards the mining
of Helium 3 so that every space shuttle mission brings back sufficient
fuel for the human beings.
But the mining of Helium 3 depends on proper funding. The Russian
space company called RKK Energiya has viewed the lunar Helium 3
extraction as a bright economic prospect in the coming years.
Major gas giants involved in mining have been proposed for the
operation. Commoners would benefit the most by the power generation
quality of Helium 3. The deployment of solid-state conversion materials
in the production of electricity is much easier as the positively
charged proton particles which directly get converted into electricity.
Conversion efficiencies to the extent of 70 percent can be attained
as proton energy does not have to be transformed into heat to drive
a turbine for the production of electricity. The proponents of Helium 3
power plants have said that these fusion power plants would involve low
costs in the area of capital and operations. Absence of radio-active fuel,
higher conversion efficiency from these smaller-sized plants, technical
simplicity makes this option a desirable alternative. Further, these
Helium 3 power plants have low requirements for the disposal of
radio-active waste. With practically no fear of water or air pollution,
around $6 billion of investment capital would be needed to set
up the first Helium 3 fusion power plant.