Lunar dust contamination poses one of the most difficult challenges to long-term lunar colonization. The dust is highly charged and highly insulating in a low gravity, vacuum environment that makes terrestrial dust mitigation methods inoperable. Passive coatings that can mitigate lunar dust have been based on friction reduction and do not address the electrostatic charges associated with the lunar environment. To remove static charge from the dust particles, the Alpha Particle Emitter Coating System proposes to apply a thin coating of Americium-241 to the surfaces of interested. Am-241 is a long-lived alpha emitter (432-year half-life) used for ionization in smoke detectors. This coating will supply positively charged alpha particles that can neutralize negative charges on the surfaces of the dust particles that attach to the surface. Furthermore, the coating would provide ionization to air used to blow dust off of surfaces in the lunar environment. These coatings would provide the long-lasting protection from lunar dust accumulation needed for repeat landings and habitation.
The APECS has the potential to create passive dust mitigation surfaces that can enable long-term operations on the lunar surface. As such, it stands to play a crucial role in the current Artemis mission to the moon, as well as for future missions to Mars and beyond. For terrestrial applications, the APECS could improve mixing and efficiency for pharmaceutical powder handling equipment. Currently, the electrostatic charge built up on the surface of pharmaceutical powders impedes homogenous mixing, resulting in uneven efficacy and performance.
Although static charge neutralization systems exist for pharmaceutical powders, none are passive in nature, requiring dedicated, high-voltage systems for operation. APECS could be applied directly to the mixing equipment surfaces to remove the need for auxiliary static charge neutralizing equipment, simplifying operations and reducing operational costs.