A team of experts led by the University of Liverpool and the South China University of Technology is exploring the possibility of storing gas in vegetables. Their research was inspired by a biomimetic approach to heavy metal storage and the ability of organic structures to facilitate gas transport.
Gas would be stored in “bioclathrates” – chemical substances formed from fungi and vegetables, functioning on the basis of one type of molecule trapping and containing a second type of molecule. Previous processes involved Clathate hydrates – compounds of water and gas, where the gas molecules are trapped inside a crystalline cage of ordered, hydrogen bonded water molecules. These form very slowly, requiring high pressures to force the gas into the water and low temperatures to form ice-like structures. The actual energy efficiency of the entire process became unconvincing.
Professor Andrew Cooper, from the Liverpool University’s Department of Chemistry, and Weixing Wang, from South China University of Technology, along with their team, decided to investigate the possibility of using vegetables and funghi to increase the formation rate of clathrate storage without involving complex mixing technologies. Mushrooms and aubergines proved to have most potential in terms of levels of gas uptake.
“Clearly, it would not be desirable to use high-value food materials for gas transport, but there might be abundant, non-food biomass that can do the same job. This work is currently a long way from practical application, but we hope that it will inspire other scientists to think about this problem in new ways. There is an enormous variety of biomass on the planet, we limited our initial search to the local supermarket,’said Professor Andrew Cooper.