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Scientists find method to store natural gas as a solid

Scientists at the National University in Singapore have found a way to quickly convert natural gas into a solid that is much safer to store while using far less space.

The end product is much more convenient and safer to store and transport. As a block of ice it’s shrunk in volume by 90 times, and is non-explosive and stable enough to be stored in a regular freezer at -5 °C (23 °F). The new method also apparently requires less toxic additives than usual.

It also takes only 15 minutes to convert. Essentially, the natural gas is chemically contained within a block of ice. The video at the link explains the entire concept nicely.

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Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

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3 comments

  • jburn

    I wonder if this would be useful as rocket fuel? Not so much for the intense burn required for launch from earth, but rather the slow burn required for interplanetary travel. Perhaps the water could be repurposed for other uses as well.

  • Dick Eagleson

    This could wind up being a very useful technology for spaceflight, but not as a direct replacement for liquid methane as a rocket fuel. According to the video at the link, this substance is only a fraction as methane dense as is LNG, with the balance being water.

    But the characteristics of this stuff make it look ideal for use in the SH-Starship “ecology.” To start with, it’s a better and less energy-intensive way to store large quantities of methane on the ground here on Earth than is cryogenic tankage.

    The same will apply to an even greater extent on Mars. Many parts of Mars never get above -5 degrees C even in daylight. The places that do exceed this temperature during at least part of a martian day don’t get any warmer than 20 degrees C. Rather modest energy expenditure, supplied by PV solar panels, could keep this stuff solid on Mars during the middle of even the “hottest” martian day.

    SpaceX plans to go to Mars in flotilla/armada strength with more of the ships being freighters than passenger carriers. If the cargo bays of the freighters are built as refrigerator space, then, once unloaded, they could be used to store this substance once ISRU methalox production is up and running.

    The linked article and video provided no complete recipe of what is needed to produce this new substance, but tryptophan was mentioned. Tryptophan can be produced from elements readily available on Mars – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. It would be interesting to know if the constituent elements of the unnamed parts of the recipe are also easily sourced on Mars.

  • Jay

    Dick Eagleson,
    You are right about storage of fuel, more of it could be made and stored easily in this methane hydrate form on Mars. Convert it back to liquid form when needed.
    It would take a lot of photovoltaics on Mars to power up the equipment. I believe the amount of light energy that hits Mars is about 600 watts/m^2. I think the high efficiency PVs are at best in the 40% range, so about 240w produced. A lot of panels would be needed.
    I would opt for the RTG for power. Yes, I know I am parroting Zubrin’s “Direct/Semi-Direct” papers for his use of an RTG for power in making methane.

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