Category: Keyes, Tom
Gas hydrates – ice with small molecules trapped in cages – are important for the energy sector because they store natural gas and carbon dioxide, block gas pipelines with an enormous cost impact, and hold potential for hydrogen storage and water purification. In a 3-year, $500K award, the Department of Energy has funded Prof. Tom Keyes to uncover the mechanism, or pathway, of gas hydrate formation. The pathway is a complex sequence of steps involving solvation, association, nucleation, growth, and a first-order-like transition, with a free energy barrier and unstable regime of thermodynamic states. Consequently, the theory of hydrate formation is in an early stage, and computer simulations using conventional algorithms have been hampered by the rarity of rate-limiting visits to the barrier.