미래를 창조하는 포스텍 화학공학과
Natural gas hydrates are solid hydrogen-bonded water crystals containing small molecular gases. The amount of natural gas stored as hydrates in permafrost and ocean sediments is twice that of all other fossil fuels combined. However, hydrate blockages also hinder oil/gas pipeline transportation, and, despite their huge potential as energy sources, our insufficient understanding of hydrates has limited their extraction. Here, we report how the presence of amino acids in water induces changes in its structure and thus interrupts the formation of methane and natural gas hydrates. The perturbation of the structure of water by amino acids and the resulting selective inhibition of hydrate cage formation were observed directly. A strong correlation was found between the inhibition efficiencies of amino acids and their physicochemical properties, which demonstrates the importance of their direct interactions with water and the resulting dissolution environment. The inhibition of methane and natural gas hydrate formation by amino acids has the potential to be highly beneficial in practical applications such as hydrate exploitation, oil/gas transportation, and flow assurance. Further, the interactions between amino acids and water are essential to the equilibria and dynamics of many physical, chemical, biological, and environmental processes.