More discoveries on the Expedition to Lake Baikal

The international Baikal expedition organized by the Institute of Oceanology has completed the second month making a number of discoveries by using the Mir mini-submarines. All this has attracted the attention of scientific community to the world’s deepest fresh water lake.

The key sensation was the discovery of rare gas hydrates on the floor of the lake by Russian scientists. Earlier, gas hydrates were discovered only 30-50 centimeters from the floor and deep in the lake. The deposit of gas hydrates on the floor of a fresh water lake is a unique phenomenon. Baikal is the only lake in the world where these deposits were discovered, says the director of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Robert Nigmatulin.

Academician Nigmatulin says gas hydrates are crystalline water-based solids in which small molecules of gases, including methane. Gas hydrates are considered as the fuel of future.

Experts believe this is an alternative to contemporary fuel. Reserves of gas hydrates contain more hydrocarbon than discovered reserves of oil and gas today. Moreover, unlike oil and gas, gas hydrates are a renewable resource.

The greatest achievement is the lifting of 5 kilograms of gas hydrates to the surface from the floor of the lake. This happened for the first time in history. Gas hydrates disintegrate when they are being lifted from the floor, but the Russian scientists developed a technology to lift them to the surface successfully. Scientists at the institute believe the results of the laboratory experiments on gas hydrates will help to solve this problem.

The scientists also discovered unknown life forms near the Barguzin reserve in the north of the lake, which have to be studied.

Another sensation in the past two months was the participation of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the expedition. He made a dive to the bottom of the lake in Mir-1 mini-submarine. The four-hour excursion was one of the most exotic experiments by the Russian Prime Minister.

The mini-submarines continue to work in Lake Baikal for another one month and then will be returned to the scientific research ship Academic Keldysh in Kaliningrad.

A Science and Technology news from RUVR , 21 August 2009

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