3 Good News from Inner and Outer space

3 Good News from Inner and Outer space

“Israeli scientists make breakthrough on producing ‘green’ hydrogen fuel

Their splitting process is assisted by solar energy and lowers the amount of the invested electrical energy needed to break the chemical bonds in the water molecule to generate hydrogen and oxygen.

One can split an atomic nucleus to produce energy, but can you also split water to create environment-friendly hydrogen fuel? Doing so currently has two drawbacks: It is both time and energy intensive.

But now, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have taken a different path. BGU environmental physicist Prof. Arik Yochelis and Technion materials science professor Avner Rothschild believe they have identified new pathways that would speed up the catalytic process they think will reduce the invested electrical energy costs significantly.

Their splitting process is assisted by solar energy, which is known scientifically by the term photoelectrochemistry, and lowers the amount of the invested electrical energy needed to break the chemical bonds in the water molecule to generate hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen evolution – the process of generating molecular oxygen (O2) by a chemical reaction, usually from water – requires the transfer of four electrons to create one oxygen molecule and then the adding of two hydrogen molecules to make water.

Oxygen evolution from water is carried out via oxygenic photosynthesis, which involves electrolysis of water and thermal decomposition of various oxides. This biological process supports aerobic life. When relatively pure oxygen is required industrially, it is isolated by distillation of liquefied air.

According to the current model, those electrons move one after the other in a sequence of four steps on an atomic reaction site that make the chemical reaction energetically difficult.

A paradigm shift in green hydrogen fuel

However, Yochelis and Rothschild showed – both theoretically and experimentally – a new paradigm where two electrons can simultaneously be transferred at different reaction sites, reducing the energy barriers for oxygen evolution. They were originally deterred by experiments that did not fit the existing paradigm, so they set out to find a different technique.

Their findings were published in the top peer-reviewed journal in the field of sustainability, Energy & Environmental Science, under the title “Parallel water photo-oxidation reaction pathways in hematite photoanodes: implications for solar fuel production.” The study was supported by the Science and Technology Ministry and largely conducted by doctoral student Anton Tsyganok (Technion) and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Paulino Monroy-Castillero (BGU).

“Our research changes the common understanding within the scientific community about the catalytic mechanism for oxygen evolution – a central and important reaction that represents a bottleneck in producing hydrogen from water,” said Rothschild, who is a faculty member of the Technion’s materials science and engineering department.

“By combining knowledge and experience from two different fields, we showed that the catalytic reaction is more complicated than people think,” he said. “We hope this new understanding will lead to additional breakthroughs in materials development and new processes to create clean fuels from renewable resources in order to facilitate the transition to net-zero.”

Yochelis, a faculty member of BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research in Sde Boker, said: “Over and above the scientific contribution of the research, it is important to emphasize the importance of the multidisciplinary approach and collaborations when dealing with complex systems like the energy system. Without open-minded and constructive communication between two researchers with different approaches, this would not have happened. [Such a] collaboration will always yield creative solutions to challenging problems.”


Helium-3: The secret ‘mining war’ in space

‘Outer space holds virtually limitless amounts of energy and raw materials,’ says former CIA space analyst

Outer space holds virtually limitless amounts of energy and raw materials,’ says former CIA space analyst

We’ve all heard of the arms race, the space race, and even the peace race.

But there’s one race that’s completely off the general public’s radar: who will be the first to mine Helium-3 in space in significant quantities in order to try to develop nuclear fusion reactors that do not create hazardous nuclear waste and other pollutants.

“Outer space holds virtually limitless amounts of energy and raw materials, from Helium-3 fuel on the Moon for clean fusion reactors to heavy metals and volatile gases from asteroids, which can be harvested for use on Earth and in space,” says former CIA space analyst Tim Chrisman.

“China will almost certainly use any resources it is able to acquire to the detriment of its adversaries, competitors and bystanders alike,” Chrisman told the Jerusalem Post, in an interview.

Chrisman also served in army intelligence and is a co-founder of Foundation for the Future, a scientific education and public works advocacy group dedicated to creating infrastructure to be able to live and work in space.

Beijing is charging forward toward potential revolutions in extracting energy in space and mining space materials and could leave the US behind, Chrisman said.

China has an upfront advantage because its military and economic components are virtually inseparable.

America faces a greater challenge rallying and uniting different aspects of national power to pursue a single challenging long-term mission.

“Getting there first may be more like launching the first satellite – like the Russia and US space races,” he said of the race for Helium-3.

“It would be a big political and diplomatic win. A lot depends on how that can be exploited on the back end, if it is able to be rapidly used for power and energy or brought back to Earth en masse reliably. It opens up possibilities for dramatic changes.”

Scientists say two fully-loaded Space Shuttle cargo bay’s worth of Helium-3 — about 40 tonnes worth of the gas — could power the United States for a year at the current rate of energy consumption.

Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, recently said, the moon is “so rich” in Helium-3, that this could “solve humanity’s energy demand for around 10,000 years at least.” 

Several major institutions in China are now studying rocks collected from the Moon by the Chang’e 5 mission for research that includes evaluating the material as a potential source of fusion power.

The mission delivered 3.82 lbs. (1.73 kilograms) of lunar material to Earth in December. A first batch of 31 samples, totaling 0.616 ounces (17.4764 grams), including fine grains, basalt fragments and glasses, were distributed to 13 Chinese institutions in July, Space.com reported.

“The main objective of the study is to determine the content of Helium-3 in the lunar soil, the extraction parameters of Helium-3, which indicates at what temperature we can extract the helium, and how Helium-3 gets attached to the lunar soil,” Huang Zhixin, a researcher in the Science and Technology Department of the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, told CCTV in late August.

“We will conduct a systematic study on these aspects.”

Solar System Resources has signed a contract to provide 500 kilograms of Helium-3 mined from the Moon to the US Nuclear Corp. in the 2028-2032 timeframe, the report said.

Unlike Earth, which is protected by its magnetic field, the Moon has been bombarded with large quantities of Helium-3 by solar winds. That makes is as much as 100 times more abundant on the Moon than on Earth.

Fusion reactor technology itself has been stuck with various obstacles for decades, but some argue that a significant supply of Helium-3 could be the needed game-changer.

“An even larger potential game-changer could be space-based solar energy,” he added.

“This has more near-term potential – and even if it might be a less significant diplomatic win, it would be much more of a political punch in the gut to either country’s population. It would be not just signals from space, but wireless power available 24/7.

“It would be a solar power plant, a solar farm of solar panels put into space. Instead of the [limited] day and night cycle on the ground, you have constant sunlight delivering energy via a microwave or laser link to the ground.”

China is on track to launch a new megawatt scale space-based solar power station in around 2030, with key tests to take place in 2022, Chrisman said, adding that it has made expansion in space a true committed national mission and put significant funding behind it.

“This isn’t just about the Biden administration. It is throughout the whole political apparatus – there is almost a sense that it [commercial potential and job creation in space] is 100 years away,” whereas the former CIA analyst argued it is only a few years, or less than a decade, away.

Regarding other useful materials, geologists, as well as emerging companies, such as US-based Planetary Resources, a firm pioneering the space mining industry, believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions.

The difficulty, Chrisman said, is that asteroids are smaller and are a harder target to land on. They are often spinning, they may not be shaped spherically and space programs may not be able to map what the surface looks like before a launch, hampering the safety of any spaceship, vehicle or astronaut.

The Trump Administration took an active interest in space, announcing that America would return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and creating the Space Force as the newest branch of the US military.

It also proposed global legal framework for mining on the moon, called the Artemis Accords, encouraging citizens to mine the Earth’s natural satellite and other celestial bodies with commercial purposes.

The directive classified outer space as a “legally and physically unique domain of human activity” instead of a “global commons,” paving the way for mining the moon without any sort of international treaty.

Spearheaded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Artemis Accords were signed by Australia, Canada, England, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy and the United Emirates.

NASA plans to build a permanent moon-orbiting base called the Gateway, similar to the ISS. From there, the agency hopes to build a base on the lunar surface, where it can mine the resources required to fly the first astronauts to Mars.

China, which made history in 2019 by becoming the first country to land a probe on the far side of the Moon, chose a different approach. Since the Artemis Accords were first announced, Beijing has approached Russia to jointly build a lunar research base.

President Xi Jinping has also he made sure China planted its flag on the Moon, which happened in December 2020, more than 50 years after the US reached the lunar surface.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Space.com, Mining.com, I2M


A girl flipping the turban of a cleric in Iran (November 2022)

A girl flipping the turban of a cleric in Iran

Tossing Turbans Of Clerics Becomes A New Protest Act In Iran

Tuesday, 11/08/20223 minutes

Iran Protests

The newest manifestation of protests in Iran is flipping turbans of the clergy, something profoundly worrisome for Islamic Republic’s authorities as well as Muslim clerics abroad. 

Tossing the turbans of clergymen as they are walking in streets is now part of the current wave of antigovernment protests across Iran, which started as a reaction to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody of hijab police. Younger Iranians tired of government attempts to force them to observe the mandatory Islamic dress code and a restricted lifestyle, began protests and disobedience in mid-September. 

In recent weeks, people have started knocking off or stealing the turbans worn by clerics as they are traditionally seen as the symbols of the Islamic Republic, no matter their political inclination.

Turbans as well as other Islamic attires have been used in Iran even before the Islamic Revolution but the styles and quality of the cloth used changed with the advent of the Islamic Republic and the rise to power of the mullahs. One of the new fashions is called crown-style turban, in which the front side of the turban is a bit elevated. 

There are some people on social media – even from the anti-regime camp – that describe the move as not totally civil and against personal freedoms, but most are of the opinion that this is only a show of defiance against the country’s strict rules that justify violence against women deemed as loosely veiled in public. 

Ironically, in a society where women felt insecure over their appearance, it is time that mullahs understand how women felt for the past 40 years, proponents of ‘turban tossing’ say. Some argue that if the mullahs were arrested violently on streets, taken to a detention center humiliated and threatened, and were not allowed to leave, that is when they would better feel how women were treated on streets by the ‘morality police’ all these years.

Masih Alinejad, one of the first Iranian anti-hijab activists, says that clerics had it coming after harassing women in public over hijab for years. https://d-40296778683174399548.ampproject.net/2210272257000/frame.html

Some of the protesters are even having fun with it, creating a fake federation for it and calling it a new sport. They even went so far that they came up with different categories and scoring criteria for the sport such how long the turban stays in the air and how far it goes before hitting the ground. https://d-40296778683174399548.ampproject.net/2210272257000/frame.html

The twitter account of the ‘federation’ now has over 30 thousand followers, so it is safe to say that this is becoming a popular sport. Some social media users say Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the final target in the game of turban tossing. 

Iran's ruler Ali Khamenei

Iran’s ruler Ali Khameneihttps://d-40296778683174399548.ampproject.net/2210272257000/frame.html

The phenomenon has forced many clerics to tie their turbans under their chins or use other head coverings to keep them on their heads as they walk in the streets. People are making fun of that too with new fake inventions that can help the clergy keep their turbans in place. 

This new addition to the ongoing protests has caused a stir among regime officials and has even made Iraqi Shia cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr worried that the trend may spread to his side of the border as a form of protest against Islamic autocracy. He released a statement to condemn the act after many Iraqi young people started to dare their friends on social media to flip some turbans. 

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr

Something has changed in Iran with the death of Mahsa Amini. People are less and less afraid of the regime. A common scene on the streets is now a woman who has unveiled in public because she is tremendously courageous and a cleric who has removed his turban out of fear. 


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