During the 2009 spring semester at UW-Madison, I worked on a project under the guidance of Kimberly Kuhlman of the Planetary Science Institute, on finding the decay of reactivity caused by ultraviolet light on olivine, a terrestrial analog for lunar soil. We were testing how the relative humidity of the environment affected the decay of reactivity with respect to time. Below is the abstract submitted to the NASA Lunar Science Institute Forum 2009 Student Poster Competition where I will be presenting. It is a brief explanation of the project. There is also a copy of the paper I wrote for the class.
“When designing a lunar habitat to limit exposure to toxic dust, it becomes critically important to determine the effects of the internal atmosphere on the surface reactivity of airborne lunar dust. One of the major exterior activators of lunar surface soil is unshielded ultraviolet radiation. Forsterite olivine, one of the major silicate phases on the Moon, was used to assess activation because of the two very sharp Raman peaks generated by the stretching vibrational modes in the SiO4 tetrahedra at about 825 cm-1 and 856 cm-1, respectively. Polished sections of forsterite were exposed to 800 W of UV irradiation in a vacuum of approximately 10-6 torr from a quartz Xenon lamp for 3 hours, equivalent to approximately 34 lunar days. Time-dependent Raman spectroscopy was used to determine the decay of reactivity in a controlled humidity environment. Measurement of these peaks give a first-approximation of how lunar soil will react upon entry to a lunar habitat. In changing humidity between test runs, it should be possible to find an ideal relative humidity to increase the rate of decay (passivation) of the reactivity of lunar soil. The change in Raman spectrum peak centers versus relaxation time was used to determine the rate of decay. We observed the decay time of the reactivity to decrease as the relative humidities increased from 0% to 100%. Experiments such as those used in the present study will provide guidance in the design and fabrication of living facilities on the Moon.”