Helium-3 Mining for Sale to Pharmaceutical Companies for NMR Imaging
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With recent advances in medical technology, Helium-3 has become a highly desirable tool for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMR). Hyper Polarized Helium-3 is a stable nontoxic isotope that is easily administered and gives very high resolutions of the interior of the human body, specifically, the lungs.
Development Strategy and Technical Details
Assuming that a lunar mining settlement has surplus Helium-3, it is possible that they could sell that over stock to gain additional revenue.
Helium-3 has a short lifespan as a radio isotope, lasting between one and one and a half hours. It is also easily administered, inhaled directly to the lungs and then exhaled leaving residual amounts which are more than sufficient for images with high enough resolution to diagnose different pulmonary conditions such as emphysema and lung cancer with out the need for a biopsy.
After a mining operation has been established on the moon, surplus helium-3 could be sold to Pharmaceutical companies at the normal rate of $1.4 million per kilo. This venture is insufficient for establishing a permanent settlement, but if a lunar mining settlement has already been created, this market could yield extra revenues for the mining corporation.
Start up costs for this business would be low, assuming that it is piggybacked on another mining operation; otherwise it would be prohibitively expensive. Start up costs could be estimated in the millions of dollars for establishing the marketing, sales, research and distribution networks necessary to effectively sell the product, but with the sales of Helium-3 to power utilities, the corporation should have money available.
One major question is whether or not the final NMR imaging will be worth the extra cost of the helium-3 or if it will make it too expensive to be competitive with a regular MRI. With the material at its current rarity, it's impossible to know how much of a market will exist for this product.
Also, if the industry were to be a basis for beginning a lunar settlement, then the settlement will lose money until a large scale operation can begin (see Helium-3 Power).
The technology for this application is already proven, and there will most likely be a market for NMRI. This business will make large revenues with low costs, leading to large profits.
[http://www.phys.ens.fr/enseign/fip/seminaires/rapports/nacher.pdf |"NMR of Hyperpolarized Helium-3: Fundamental Study and Medical Applications"]
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