Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Make Key Step Towards Turning Methane Gas Into Liquid Fuel

26.10.2009
Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have taken an important step in converting methane gas to a liquid, potentially making it more useful as a fuel and as a source for making other chemicals.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is plentiful and is an attractive fuel and raw material for chemicals because it is more efficient than oil, produces less pollution and could serve as a practical substitute for petroleum-based fuels until renewable fuels are widely useable and available.

However, methane is difficult and costly to transport because it remains a gas at temperatures and pressures typical on the Earth's surface.

Now UNC and UW scientists have moved closer to devising a way to convert methane to methanol or other liquids that can easily be transported, especially from the remote sites where methane is often found. The finding is published in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Science.

Methane is valued for its high-energy carbon-hydrogen bonds, which consist of a carbon atom bound to four hydrogen atoms. The gas does not react easily with other materials and so it is most often simply burned as fuel. Burning breaks all four hydrogen-carbon bonds and produces carbon dioxide and water, said Karen Goldberg, a UW chemistry professor.

Converting methane into useful chemicals, including readily transported liquids, currently requires high temperatures and a lot of energy. Catalysts that turn methane into other chemicals at lower temperatures have been discovered, but they have proven to be too slow, too inefficient or too expensive for industrial applications, Goldberg said.

Binding methane to a metal catalyst is the first step required to selectively break just one of the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the process of converting the gas to methanol or another liquid. In their paper, the researchers describe the first observation of a metal complex (a compound consisting of a central metal atom connected to surrounding atoms or molecules) that binds methane in solution. This compound serves as a model for other possible methane complexes. In the complex, the methane's carbon-hydrogen bonds remained intact as they bound to a rare metal called rhodium.

The work should spur further advances in developing catalysts to transform methane into methanol or other liquids, Goldberg said, although she noted that actually developing a process and being able to convert the gas into a liquid chemical at reasonable temperatures still is likely some distance in the future.

"The idea is to turn methane into a liquid in which you preserve most of the carbon-hydrogen bonds so that you can still have all that energy," she said. "This gives us a clue as to what the first interaction between methane and metal must look like."

Maurice Brookhart, a UNC chemistry professor, said carbon-hydrogen bonds are very strong and hard to break, but in methane complexes breaking the carbon-hydrogen bond becomes easier.

“The next step is to use knowledge gained from this discovery to formulate other complexes and conditions that will allow us to catalytically replace one hydrogen atom on methane with other atoms and produce liquid chemicals such as methanol,” Brookhart said.

The lead author of the paper is Wesley Bernskoetter of Brown University, who did the work while at UNC. Goldberg, Brookhart and Cynthia Schauer, associate chemistry professor at UNC, are co-authors.

The work comes out of a major National Science Foundation-funded collaboration, the UW-based Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis, which involves 13 universities and research centers in the United States and Canada, including UNC. Additional funding came from the National Institutes of Health.

The center, directed by Goldberg, is aimed at finding efficient, inexpensive and environmentally friendly ways to produce chemicals and fuels.

For more information, contact Goldberg at 206-616-2973 or goldberg@chem.washington.edu or Brookhart at 919-962-0362 or mbrookhart@unc.edu

Patric Lane | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History

nachricht New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>