Scientists create new type of ice

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Berlin | Published: December 14, 2014 4:19 PM

Scientists have for the first time created a new super-low density form of ice...

Scientists have for the first time created a new super-low density form of ice.

The advance will help remove pipe-blocking clathrates from natural gas and thereby improve the energy efficiency of extraction, researchers said.

Water molecules can sometimes form crystal structures called a clathrate hydrate by surrounding impurities, such as methane or carbon dioxide, with frozen ‘cages’.

Scientists realised that if they could extract these molecules they could create a new type of ice.

This was, however, difficult to achieve because the ice structure is fragile without these extra molecules.

Researchers at the University of Gottingen in Germany have now done just this by using a vacuum pump at low temperatures, reported.

The trick was to mix in neon atoms, which are relatively small and easily coaxed out of the solid ice.

Researchers said that if they can figure out how to replace energy-rich methane trapped in the huge amounts of clathrates on the ocean floor with carbon dioxide, then they could harvest energy from the ocean.

“It is important to note that clathrates could also be formed with carbon dioxide gas which would create stable compounds on the ocean floor.

This means there is a possibility we could extract methane and convert it to useful energy, and replace it with the CO2,” researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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