Turning Ice into Power: Gas Hydrate Research in Energy and Environmental Science
Alternative sources of energy are the holy grails of our energy-hungry society. Because of the enormous amount of stored energy they posses, gas hydrates are a possible source. Sometimes referred to as ice cubes that burn, gas hydrates are ice-like crystalline structures of water that form "cages" that trap certain gas molecules, especially methane. Stable under a variety of temperatures and pressures, these odd minerals occur abundantly in nature, both in Arctic regions and in marine sediments. The Earth's gas hydrate reserves exceed conventional carbon reserves and contain mostly natural gas, the cleanest burning of all available fossil fuels.
Canada Research Chair Dr. Phillip Servio is studying gas hydrates and their potential as source of energy. His research is providing the necessary information to design safe, economical, and environmentally acceptable processes and facilities for dealing with hydrate-forming systems and to exploit in-situ methane hydrate as a future energy resource. His research program looks at gas hydrates from an environmental perspective and explores their possibilities as advanced materials. On the one hand, this naturally occurring energy source may provide us with a method to capture and sequester harmful carbon dioxide emissions in order to abide by the Kyoto protocol. On the other hand, the premature release of methane into the atmosphere from naturally occurring hydrates (due to global warming) may pose an environmental hazard on a global scale.
Since hydrates have an enormous ability to trap gas - believed to rival and surpass the benefits of current storage and transportation methods-their potential as a synthetically grown material is significant. In addition, synthetically grown hydrates have the ability to power solid oxidizing fuel cells and micro-electronic machines.