Fuel from space? IIT Madras researchers make this big discovery
Indian researchers from IIT Madras have found that methane in the form of clathrate hydrate in interstellar atmosphere can release combustible gases, which can be used as fuel.
Indian researchers from IIT Madras have found that methane in the form of clathrate hydrate in interstellar atmosphere can release combustible gases, which can be used as fuel. India, among many other nations, have programmes to explore hydrates in the ocean bed. The researchers said molecular confinement in hydrates may have relevance to the origin of life.
What is clathrate hydrates?
Clathrate hydrates are generally found on the ocean floor, hundreds of metres below the sea level, and in glaciers such as in Siberia. formed at high pressures and low temperatures, clathrate hydrates are molecules like methane, carbon dioxide, etc, trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids. Such hydrates are thought to be the future sources of fuel.
Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) researchers specially built experimental ultra-high vacuum (UHV) for such studies, which housed several spectroscopic probes.
They formed such hydrates in a vacuum, one thousand billion times below the atmospheric pressure UHV and temperature close to minus 263 degree Celsius (10 Kelvin). These are the conditions present in deep space.
“Normally, in UHV experiments, spectroscopic changes are monitored only for minutes, may be an hour. I thought that why not wait for days and keep observing the changes. After all, ice and methane have been sitting in the space for millions of years.” said Professor Pradeep, a senior author of the study.
Such hydrates were also formed with carbon dioxide, one of his younger colleague, Rajnish Kumar, co-author in this study suggested that “Trapping carbon dioxide in hydrates is a way to reduce global warming. One can sequester carbon dioxide gas as solid hydrates under the sea bed”.
The study was conducted by Jyotirmoy Ghosh and colleagues under the guidance of Prof Thalappil Pradeep and Dr. Rajnish Kumar of IIT Madras and the paper was published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).