Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.140, No.9, 3277-3284, 2018
Formation of Methane Hydrate in the Presence of Natural and Synthetic Nanoparticles
Natural gas hydrates occur widely on the ocean-bed and in permafrost regions, and have potential as an untapped energy resource. Their formation and growth, however, poses major problems for the energy sector due to their tendency to block oil and gas pipelines, whereas their melting is viewed as a potential contributor to climate change. Although recent advances have been made in understanding bulk methane hydrate formation, the effect of impurity particles, which are always present under conditions relevant to industry and the environment, remains an open question. Here we present results from neutron scattering experiments and molecular dynamics simulations that show that the formation of methane hydrate is insensitive to the addition of a wide range of impurity particles. Our analysis shows that this is due to the different chemical natures of methane and water, with methane generally excluded from the volume surrounding the nanoparticles. This has important consequences for our understanding of the mechanism of hydrate nucleation and the design of new inhibitor molecules.