Creating artificial methane hydrates

Creating artificial methane hydrates

7:40 AM, 7th March 2015
Creating artificial methane hydrates
(From left to right) Researchers, Manuel Martínez Escandell, Francisco Rodríguez Reinoso and Joaquin Silvestre Albero.

ALICANTE, SPAIN: The research group of the Laboratory of Advanced Materials (LMA), belonging to the University of Alicante’s department of Inorganic Chemistry, has developed a technology allowing to prepare artificial methane hydrates. Their research has been published by the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Research has been led by Joaquin Silvestre Albero, Francisco Rodriguez Reinoso and Manuel Martínez Escandell, and carried out by Mirian E Casco, who is currently completing an internship at the University of Alicante. These researchers have proven it is possible to prepare methane hydrates in a laboratory by imitating, and even enhancing, natural processes through the use of activated coal materials as nano-reactors. One of the keys of this research was that scientists were able to reduce the process to form methane hydrates, which takes a long time in nature, to just a few minutes, thus making its technological applicability much easier.

LMA group of the University of Alicante has been working on the design and synthesis of highly-performing activated coal for over 30 years.

“These materials show a great potential to not only eliminate polluting molecules in the air and in industrial waterways, but also to be used as gas storage systems,” said Joaquin Silvestre, Investigator in charge of the project.

These results are a step forward to understanding the artificial synthesis process of these natural structures, and a new pathway into the use of fuels such as natural gas for transport (instead of petrol and diesel), or for long-distance transport of natural gas (e.g. as opposed to current transport conditions, where gas is liquefied at -162ºC, since this new technique allows for gas to be transported at a temperature that is much closer to room temperature). “Our results show that some of our coals can supply amounts as high as 300 methane volumes stored at 100 atmospheres for each volume unit of wet coal,” said the researchers.

Silvestre explained that this research has taken advantage of the so-called ‘confinement’ effect to artificially synthesize methane hydrates inside the coal’s cavities or pores. “Methane hydrates have been prepared on activated coal materials that were previously wetted under gentler pressure and temperature conditions (30 atmospheres and 2ºC) than in a natural environment.”

Once the synthesis and analysis had been carried out at the University of Alicante’s laboratories, the study went on to its final stage in Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford (United Kingdom), where neutron scattering was performed, and in ALBA synchrotron in Barcelona (Spain). “These studies are the first experimental evidence that it is possible to form methane hydrates in a confined space, with a nature-like stoichiometry and significantly higher kinetics,” said the researchers.

 

© University of Alicante News

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