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Memorial University warmly welcomes International Ice Conference

Ref. No. 168

DATE:     July 12, 2002
SUBJECT:     Memorial University warmly welcomes International Ice Conference

St. John's is no stranger to ice. Each year, Newfoundland's capital gets plenty of icy weather-38 days of freezing rain on average, more than any other Canadian city. Icebergs are a major tourist draw, as well as a shipping hazard. Add in the National Research Council's (NRC) Institute for Marine Dynamics (IMD), where researchers investigate the mechanical properties of ice, and its crystal clear why St. John's is an ideal choice to host the 10th International Conference on the Physics and Chemistry of Ice.

The conference, to be held from July 14-19 at Memorial University of Newfoundland, is sponsored by the NRC and Memorial University. This year's organizing committee chair, Dr. Stephen Jones, IMD, said about 120 scientists are expected to attend from 18 countries, including Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Argentina and the United States.

For participants, the ice conference provides a rare forum for sharing the results of both basic research and more practically oriented studies on topics such as remote sensing of ice, anti-icing/de-icing methods, sea ice dynamics, and the role of ice chemistry in ozone depletion. Approximately one-quarter of this year's papers concern 'clathrate hydrates'-a family of natural crystalline structures in which water molecules surround 'guest molecule' impurities. (For example, clathrates that contain methane are called methane hydrates.)

Clathrate hydrates are the focus of two NRC research groups at the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences (SIMS). One group is investigating the thermal properties and hydrophobic interactions of clathrate hydrates. The other group is studying clathrate hydrates from an engineering perspective, related to their potential recovery from the natural environment.

The main reason for interest in these structures is to harvest the methane trapped in methane hydrates, explains Dr. John Tse, Principal Research Officer in the Theory and Computation Group at SIMS. "Clathrate hydrates are the largest untapped source of energy in the world right now," he says. "In fact, the estimated content of energy in clathrate hydrates is at least double the content in conventional fossil fuel reserves."

According to Tse, ocean-based clathrate hydrates can be found in any continental shelf, while land-based hydrates are buried below ground in places like Siberia and Canada's Mackenzie Delta. In Japan, a project is underway to begin harvesting gas hydrates by 2007. Moreover, many nations are exploring the feasibility of using underwater hydrates to harvest energy while disposing of 'greenhouse' gases such as carbon dioxide. The idea is to pump carbon dioxide into clathrate hydrates located on the bottom of oceans in order to trap the carbon dioxide and recover methane.

Extraterrestrial ice will be the subject of the conference's final plenary session on Friday -a fitting conclusion for an event that has evolved over the years. "In the 1960s, the first conferences looked mainly at the structure of ice and the nature of its hydrogen atoms, which are arranged randomly in ice," says Jones. "Today, there's growing interest in the fact that there's so much ice in the solar system." Ice is found in comets and the rings of Saturn. "On earth, all of the natural ice exists in one form, called hexagonal ice," he adds. But at lower temperatures and higher pressures, ice exists as many other forms. There's no other substance like it.

Plenary sessions will be held in the Science Lecture Theatre, Science Building and concurrent sessions will be held the Arts and Administration Building rooms A1043 and A1046. For further details on the conference, please refer to the Physics and Chemistry Ice Conference web site at: http://www.housing.mun.ca/conf/pci/index.html

Note to editors:
Media agencies are encouraged to send representatives. Media should identify themselves at the registration desk located in the Thomson Student Centre.

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For further information, please contact Deborah Inkpen, acting manager, News Service, Memorial University, 737-8665, cell phone: 687-9243, inkpend@mun.ca

 

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