Nucleation of hydrates requires very long induction (wait) times, often ranging from hours to days. Electronucleation, i.e. nucleation stimulated by the presence of an electric field in the precursor solution can reduce the induction time significantly. This work reveals that porous aluminum foams enable near-instantaneous electronucleation at very low voltages. Experiments with tetrahydrofuran hydrate nucleation reveal that open-cell aluminum foam electrodes can trigger nucleation in only tens of seconds. Foam-based electrodes reduce the induction time by as much as 150X, when compared to non-foam electrodes. This work also discusses two mechanisms underlying electronucleation. These include bubble generation (due to electrolysis), and the formation of metal-ion coordination compounds. These mechanisms depend on electrode material and polarity, and affect the induction time to different extents. This work also shows that foams result in more deterministic nucleation (compared to stochastic) when compared with non-foam electrodes. Overall, electronucleation can lead to a new class of technologies for active control of formation of hydrates.

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