The clathrate hydrates represent a distinctive, unusual, scientifically significant, and practically important class of solid state materials. Since their discovery in the early nineteenth century, their widespread distribution in oceans and permafrost regions and their ability to trap atoms and small molecules—particularly methane and other small hydrocarbons—has led to the realization that they are simultaneously a tremendous energy source and, in the face of global warming, a potential greenhouse gas release disaster of unprecedented magnitude just waiting to happen. In the twentieth century, it was realized that solid methane clathrate hydrate could plug natural gas pipelines and disrupt oil drilling processes. On the environmental positive side, clathrate hydrates can store hydrogen and sequester carbon dioxide. A brief historical review of the formation, structure, and uses of clathrate hydrates forms the backdrop for a discussion of modern scientific investigations of these solids employing spectroscopy, structure determination methods, isotopic studies, computational-theoretical modeling, and interrogations of guest-host interactions via special guests. For example, the use of colored halogens in clathrate hydrate hosts enables UV-visible spectroscopic methods to be employed to study clathrate hydrate structure.
Part of the book: Solidification