After analyzing igneous rocks and lava flows from Canada’s Baffin Island, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found evidence of seepage from the Earth’s core. This research, which is still preliminary, was recently published in the academic journal Nature.
The hypothesis is based on traces of helium-3 that were identified in samples collected during the study. The isotope in question is extremely rare on the planet, although it is abundant in outer space and on celestial bodies, such as our Moon, for example.
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The ratio of helium-3 present to the more common helium-4 was 67 times greater than expected in the atmosphere.
Therefore, the conclusion is that the origin of the isotope is the Earth’s core. If this hypothesis is confirmed later, it will be easier for scientists to analyze the materials that make up the inner layer of the planet, which are inaccessible with the techniques available to us.
On Earth, helium is found only in the planet’s mantle and core. If it’s not “attached” to these structures — or stored in some sort of support, like a cylinder, for example — it tends to escape into space, due to the role of Earth’s atmosphere as a protective shield against radiation.
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This property explains the scarcity of the noble gas in the terrestrial environment.
Given the possibility of using helium-3, specifically in nuclear fusion, as a process to generate energy, this isotope has aroused the greed of major powers, which have plans to explore the lunar soil to extract fuel.
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