Indian Institute of Technology, Madras scientists have created what they call ‘space fuel’ by simulating interstellar conditions in the lab, a method that may be used to convert atmospheric CO2 into a next generation energy source on Earth.
According to IIT-M, such hydrates, especially that of methane, are thought to be the future sources of fuel. Many nations across the world, including India, have programmes to explore hydrates in the ocean bed. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could help curb greenhouse gases as well as provide a new, sustainable source of energy.
“What we have found is that molecules like methane and ammonia in space could exist in a completely different form than what is known to us,” Thalappil Pradeep of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. This discovery of hydrates is highly unexpected at extremely low pressures and ultra-cold temperatures and may have several implications for the chemistry of such atmospheres, Pradeep said.
IIT Madras researchers formed such hydrates in vacuum, one thousand billion times below the atmospheric pressure called ultra-high vacuum (UHV) and temperature close to minus 263 degree Celsius. These are the conditions present in deep space.
Clathrate hydrates are molecules like methane, carbon dioxide…trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids,” said the statement, adding these are formed at high pressures and low temperatures at places such as the ocean floor, hundreds of metres below the sea level. They are also found in glaciers such as in Siberia.
This may have relevance to the origin of life. The work was performed by Jyotirmoy Ghosh and colleagues under the guidance of Mr Pradeep and Mr Kumar of IIT-M, the statement said.