Of all fossil fuels, natural gas is the purest, but storing it in a safe and affordable way remains a challenge. In a new development, engineers at the National University of Singapore have devised a method to transform natural gas into a solid that is non-explosive, easy to store and transport. The conversion is the fastest till date that can be converted in just 15 minutes. It involves use of a novel, low-toxicity additive mixture formulated by the engineers.
The team devised a process for transforming natural gas into a solid known as gas hydrates or combustible ice. The solid consists of molecules of natural gas confined in cages formed by water molecules. Interestingly, nature stores natural gas in this manner, but the process is extremely slow. In fact, earlier, other researchers have managed to speed up the process artificially, but it involved using highly toxic additives which are not safe for the environment and personnel involved.
Formulation speeds up trapping of natural gas
The mixture contains L-tryptophan, commonly known as an essential amino acid in the diet of people. This muscle-boosting amino acid can also greatly accelerate the trapping of natural gas into solid form. The formulation created by engineers at the National University of Singapore produces the speediest reaction till date, more than two times speedier as existing standards – while being safer and less toxic to handle.
“The breakthrough finding can really be put into a perspective, said the research fellow who worked on the project. Considering, it takes millions and millions of years for gas hydrates to form in nature, the correct addition of secret constituents to the system in small quantities, the same process can be produced in the laboratory in a matter of minutes.