Nature communications

Methane hydrate formation in confined nanospace can surpass nature.

PMID 25728378


Natural methane hydrates are believed to be the largest source of hydrocarbons on Earth. These structures are formed in specific locations such as deep-sea sediments and the permafrost based on demanding conditions of high pressure and low temperature. Here we report that, by taking advantage of the confinement effects on nanopore space, synthetic methane hydrates grow under mild conditions (3.5 MPa and 2 °C), with faster kinetics (within minutes) than nature, fully reversibly and with a nominal stoichiometry that mimics nature. The formation of the hydrate structures in nanospace and their similarity to natural hydrates is confirmed using inelastic neutron scattering experiments and synchrotron X-ray powder diffraction. These findings may be a step towards the application of a smart synthesis of methane hydrates in energy-demanding applications (for example, transportation).