Methane X – Step Towards a Greener Future

By DANIEL CHOE

Here on Long Island, we are no strangers to the destructive power of climate change.

Only three years ago, the students of Jericho were shaken by Hurricane Sandy, a Category 3 hurricane which was reported by the National Hurricane Center to have destroyed an estimated $74.1 billion in property damage, making it the second-costliest hurricane in US history. Its destructive effects can still be felt in some parts of Long Island and are remembered by many Jericho students.

Much of the damage caused by the hurricane could be attributed to climate change. Climate change (with abnormally high temperatures that come with it) caused stronger winds, more rainfall, abnormal jet stream patterns (due to melting of arctic ice), and higher sea levels that all contributed to the destructive effects of Hurricane Sandy.

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According to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, climate change costs a combined sum of 1.2 trillion dollars and (through natural disasters, forced poverty, disease, and pollution). With shocking statistics like this and other disasters correlated with climate change (such as the recent floodings in South Carolina and Hurricane Patricia in Mexico) continuously appearing, the American public begins to realize the magnitude of the climate change issue. They turn to scientists all over the world in their search for a solution to this global crisis. Young scientists in particular are being called to rise and find a cure to the environmental disease that is climate change.

And one idea may have been found in our very own Jericho High School.

Methane X is the name of a group of Jericho High School students with an innovative plan to combat the destructive effects of greenhouse gases and climate change. The group consists of Brian Sang, Nate Lee, Kendra Zhang, Grace Hu, Maddy Rangel, Jacob Kozhipatt, and Adam Pahlavan. Each member has experienced the beauty of nature in Jericho and the rest of the world, and each is committed to preserving this beauty for future generations to enjoy. They seek to target a relatively unknown contributor to climate change – methane.

According to the group, the greenhouse gas methane accounts for 25% of present-day climate change and is 83 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. It is continuously emitted by landfills, natural gas, and fracking, producing a combined total of 273 million metric tons per year. Worst of all, although scientists have found methods to dissolve the gas, there is currently no proper way to remove dissolved methane.

This is where Methane X comes in. One member plans to test cyclodextrin, a modified sugar commonly found in Febreeze, to lower methane concentrations from water. Cyclodextrin has the unique ability to form hydrophobic cavities (capsules that repel water and therefore can trap substances like methane), but the chemical also dissolves in water, so it cannot be easily disposed after it is placed in water.

Therefore, that same member found a way to connect cyclodextrin to zeolite, an insoluble rock sometimes found in cat litter in order for the cyclodextrin to be removed from the water.

The next step in this scientific journey will be to encapsulate methane in the cyclodextrin modified zeolite capsules. Previous experiments have shown that the cyclodextrin modified zeolites can successfully hold organic molecules, shining hope onto its next step and eventual goal of trapping methane. In fact, studies have shown that the methane can even be heated and reused as an energy source.

Simply put, the group has discovered an innovative idea to reduce climate change and make a sustainable energy source in the process. And yes, these are high school students.

On Friday, December 11th, Methane X  submitted its project to the Lexus Eco Challenge in hopes of gaining a grant to make its idea into a reality.

 

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