The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could help curb greenhouse gases as well as provide a new, sustainable source of energy.
‘What we have found is that molecules like methane and ammonia in space could exist in a completely different form than what is known to us,’ Thalappil Pradeep of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras told PTI.
Clathrate hydrates are molecules like methane, carbon dioxide, etc, trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids.
They are formed at high pressures and low temperatures at places such as the ocean floor, hundreds of metres below the sea level. They are also found in glaciers such as in Siberia.
Such hydrates especially that of methane, are thought to be the future sources of fuel. Many nations across the world including India have programmes to explore hydrates in the ocean bed.
IIT Madras researchers formed such hydrates in vacuum, one thousand billion times below the atmospheric pressure called ultra-high vacuum (UHV) and temperature close to minus 263 degree Celsius. These are the conditions present in deep space.