Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
A. James Clark School of Engineering
My research interests and expertise related to energy involves alternative energy sources, hydrogen storage for fuel cells, and environmental aspects of carbon capture and release. The integral material to all three of these areas is a water-based compound known as gas hydrates or clathrates. These are a solid network of water that forms cavities which encapsulates gas molecules. Gas hydrates are commonly found as plugs in natural gas pipelines, but also exist in nature within the permafrost or seafloor. The actual amount of natural gas stored in the seafloor and permafrost is not known, but estimates vary from one to three orders of magnitude more methane in hydrates than conventional reserves. Therefore, this may be an excellent resource as a transition from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy and also reduces the need for foreign oil sources.
Research in my lab involves primarily modeling of gas hydrates from a molecular level to macroscopic thermodynamics/mass transfer to geophysical modeling at a regional/global scale. Our models suggest three orders of magnitude more methane in hydrated form than in conventional global reserves and agree extremely well with known locations of hydrates off the eastern and western coastlines of the U.S. Currently, we are extending this approach to local regions to determine the best locations to drill for natural gas. In addition, research on the carbon capture of CO2 in the seafloor and how natural gas hydrates may contribute to global warming is also of interest to our lab.