In situ experimental formation and growth of Fe nanoparticles and vesicles in lunar soil

Michelle S. Thompson, Thomas J. Zega, Jane Y. Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We report the results of the first dynamic, in situ heating of lunar soils to simulate micrometeorite impacts on the lunar surface. We performed slow- and rapid-heating experiments inside the transmission electron microscope to understand the chemical and microstructural changes in surface soils resulting from space-weathering processes. Our slow-heating experiments show that the formation of Fe nanoparticles begins at ~575 °C. These nanoparticles also form as a result of rapid-heating experiments, and electron energy-loss spectroscopy measurements indicate the Fe nanoparticles are composed entirely of Fe0, suggesting this simulation accurately mimics micrometeorite space-weathering processes occurring on airless body surfaces. In addition to Fe nanoparticles, rapid-heating experiments also formed vesiculated textures in the samples. Several grains were subjected to repeated thermal shocks, and the measured size distribution and number of Fe nanoparticles evolved with each subsequent heating event. These results provide insight into the formation and growth mechanisms for Fe nanoparticles in space-weathered soils and could provide a new methodology for relative age dating of individual soil grains from within a sample population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-427
Number of pages15
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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