Mapping Minerals From Space: NASA Makes Progress

Dec 2023

In addition to researching climate change, the collected data could also help in the search for raw materials.

Since summer 2022, NASA has been studying the composition of terrestrial mineral dust from space. For this purpose, EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation), an imaging spectrometer, was installed on the International Space Station (we reported), which can indicate the exact location of minerals based on their light reflection and absorption. The sensor measures the Earth’s surface from a height of 410 kilometers and can cover larger areas than what is possible through measurements on the ground or from aircraft, writes the US space agency. The data collection now presented includes minerals such as hematite, goethite and kaolinite, whose deposits have been mapped in the Earth’s arid regions. According to NASA, the findings should primarily benefit climate research, as the influence of these fine particles on the climate when they are whirled up into the air as dust storms has not yet been sufficiently understood. Their impact on various ecosystems could also be better investigated with the help of global mapping.

According to NASA, EMIT might also help in the search for critical raw materials, as the data could provide information on deposits of rare earths and lithium, explains lead researcher Dr. Robert Green. Due to their importance for the global energy transition, the demand for these minerals is increasing, but supply bottlenecks are expected because of their increasingly limited availability.

More innovation: New technologies for the search for raw materials could become increasingly important in view of the growing demand, for example the use of artificial intelligence is gaining importance.

Photo: iStock/ljphoto7

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