Untangling the formation and liberation of water in the lunar regolith

1,2Cheng Zhu,1,2Parker B. Crandall,3Jeffrey J. Gillis-Davis,3Hope A. Ishii,4John P. Bradley,3Laura M. Corley,1Ralf I. Kaiser
Proceeding sof the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116, 11165-11170 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1819600116]
1Department of Chemistry, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822;bW. M. Keck Laboratory in Astrochemistry, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822;
2W. M. Keck Laboratory in Astrochemistry, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822;
3Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822

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.

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