A Possible Extraterrestrial Resource Of Transition Metals For On-Location Mining And Processing

Clusters and/or nanosized particles of various transition elements, strongly bonded to amorphous colloidal silica, exist in relative abundance throughout the earth’s outer crust, and very likely throughout the entire planet. As these transition element clusters/particles are dimensionally below the atomic bulk metal size, they do not exhibit many of the standard chemical and physical properties of a subject transition element; here referred to as precursor-type. Chemical and physical properties such as the ionization potential, melting point, specific heat, etc. are different from those of their acknowledged bulk metal counterpart. Consequently, the presence of these precursor-type transition elements is very difficult to detect within a normal geologic matrix when using conventional or even very sophisticated methods. Perhaps a reasonable analogy is the difficulty involved with identifying and quantifying (referred to as “characterizing”) cluster particles in various applications of catalyst and cluster chemistry.

Bench and pilot testing demonstrates that these described cluster complexes are highly resistant to decomposition in the sense that the transition element clusters are difficult to dissociate from the amorphous colloidal silica ligands. Using procedural modifications of secondary nucleation, however, the cluster/particle can be grown to bulk metal sized metal and subsequently easily recovered in substantial quantities and refined as “conventional” metal. The geologic source material for processing is present in relative abundance within every geologic environment! Precursor-type elements that have been successfully recovered (to date) using these techniques include the precious metals and a few of the base metals.

The strong bonding, high stability, and widespread abundance of precursor-type transition elements associated with amorphous colloidal silica suggest the possibility that they were involved with the formation of the earth rather than by later post-formation geologic processes. In other words, these tiny, almost indestructible silica grains, were perhaps originally stardust and thus reveal our ancient past. If so, then this suggests the presence of an abundance of precursor-type transition elements in other planetary bodies such as the earth’s moon, Mars, etc.; assuming that they were formed in a manner similar to that of the earth. In 2003, Scott Messenger, PhD. at Washington University in St. Louis announced the discovery of interplanetary minute particles of stardust silica from samples taken by high altitude NASA earth overflights. Does any of this stardust silica contain precursor-type transition element clusters/particles? Logically, you might think so! What about the lighter elements?

The equipment required to produce various metals from precursor-type silica complexes is relatively simple and the chemical requirements even more so. Perhaps it is possible to sustain a manned facility on earth’s moon (or elsewhere) after all!

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