2011 methane concentration in the upper troposphere

2011 methane concentration in the upper troposphere ©Giorgiogp2

Scientists in the Philippines are getting to grips with the mechanisms of clathrate hydrate formation. This stable ‘water cage’ may very well provide an attractive means of locking up carbon dioxide in the ocean floor – an approach which could prove to be a useful weapon in the fight against climate change.

With global temperatures on the rise, the high concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is a major concern, and scientists are anxious to find a way of lowering it to manageable levels. The answer may lie in the process of carbon sequestration, in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and deposited in geological reservoirs. For this to happen, CO2 has to be encapsulated through a process active enough to take it out of the air and stable enough to store it long term. One possible way is through the formation of a peculiar compound called clathrate hydrate.

This solid, ice-like structure occurs naturally in the ocean floor. Under specific conditions, carbon can be made to physically react with water molecules and have them surround the gas to form a stable crystalline structure, acting as a kind of ‘cage’. If scientists can figure out a way to trap large amounts of atmospheric CO2 using clathrate hydrate and store the resulting compound (carbon dioxide clathrate) in the ocean floor, it would be a promising step forward. The downside is that the mechanisms of clathrate hydrate formation under different environmental conditions are poorly understood.

In July 2011, Dr Len Herald Lim of the Institute of Chemistry at the University of the Philippines Diliman set out to study the mechanisms of clathrate formation under different conditions. He and his colleagues are assessing the effects of organic matter and clay at different temperatures and pressures. In doing so, they hope to identify the optimum conditions for clathrate hydrate formation. The research is an important step towards the development of technologies that aim to combat global warming.

For further information contact:

Dr Len Herald V. Lim
Institute of Chemistry
University of the Philippines Diliman
Email: slela@fmhs.unimas.my