New material could make gases more transportable

November 20, 2008

Chemists at the University of Liverpool have developed a way of converting methane gas into a powder form in order to make it more transportable.

Scientists have developed a material made out of a mixture of silica and water which can soak up large quantities of methane molecules. The material looks and acts like a fine white powder which, if developed for industrial use, might be easily transported or used as a vehicle fuel.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas and can be burnt in oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water. The abundance of the gas and its relatively clean burning process makes it a good source of fuel, but due to its gaseous state at room temperature, methane is difficult to transport from its source.

Professor Andy Cooper, Director of the Centre for Materials Discovery at the University's Department of Chemistry, explains: "Many natural gas reserves are geographically remote and can only be extracted via pipelines, so there is a need to look for other ways to transport the gas. It has been suggested that methane gas hydrate could be used as a way of containing methane gas for transportation. The disadvantage of methane gas hydrate for industry use is that it is formed at a very slow rate when methane reacts with water under pressure.

"To counteract these difficulties we used a method to break water up into tiny droplets to increase the surface area in contact with the gas. We did this by mixing water with a special form of silica – a similar material to sand – which stops the water droplets from coalescing. This 'dry water' powder soaks up large quantities of methane quite rapidly at around water's normal freezing point."

The team also found that 'dry water' could be more economical than other potential products because it is made from cheap raw materials. The material may also have industrial applications if methane could be stored more conveniently and used to power clean vehicles.

Chemists at Liverpool are now investigating ways to store larger quantities of methane gas at higher temperatures and lower pressures as part of a project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Source: University of Liverpool

Explore further: New Horizons data hint at underground ocean

Related Stories

New Horizons data hint at underground ocean

July 30, 2015

Pluto wears its heart on its sleeve, and that has scientists gleaning intriguing new facts about its geology and climate. Recent data from NASA's New Horizons probe—which passed within 7,800 miles of the surface on July ...

Scientist: Oil slick likely from natural seafloor seepage

July 30, 2015

Coast Guard officials were still trying to determine the source of a mysterious miles-long oil slick off California's Santa Barbara County shoreline, but a scientist said Thursday that it's likely the result of naturally ...

Neptune's moon of Triton

July 29, 2015

The planets of the outer solar system are known for being strange, as are their many moons. This is especially true of Triton, Neptune's largest moon. In addition to being the seventh-largest moon in the solar system, it ...

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

New lizard named after Sir David Attenborough

August 3, 2015

A research team led by Dr Martin Whiting from the Department of Biological Sciences recently discovered a beautifully coloured new species of flat lizard, which they have named Platysaurus attenboroughi, after Sir David Attenborough.

'Snowball earth' might be slushy

August 3, 2015

Imagine a world without liquid water—just solid ice in all directions. It would certainly not be a place that most life forms would like to live.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.