Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017

Scientists hoping to develop new energy resources have long pursued the goal of directly converting methane, a simple and abundant chemical found in natural gas, into a usable fuel such as methanol. Until now, scientists have required expensive-to-generate high temperatures to do this.

In a new study, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, Tufts University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory teamed up to explore the potential of rhodium-based catalysts for this conversion under milder conditions.


The researchers gained new insights into the atomic-scale structure of rhodium-based catalysts.

Image courtesy of Lawrence F. Allard and Oak Ridge National Laboratory

"Our work shows the potential of rhodium to enable this conversion under 'mild conditions' such as lower temperatures," said Argonne X-ray scientist Sungsik Lee. "Converting methane to methanol under mild conditions could have significant applications and present a breakthrough in catalysis."

"Our work shows the potential of rhodium to enable this conversion under 'mild conditions' such as lower temperatures." - Sungsik Lee, Argonne X-ray scientist

Methanol is a key feedstock for the production of chemicals, some of which are used to make products such as plastics, plywood and paints. Methanol also could potentially fuel vehicles or be reformed to produce high grade hydrogen for fuel cells.

The decades-long interest in finding efficient ways to convert methane to methanol has grown even stronger in recent years thanks to the abundance of methane found in U.S.-based natural gas.

However, the current method for producing methanol from methane involves a multi-step process that is neither efficient nor economical in small-scale applications.

In the study, published in Nature, the researchers developed a new way of converting methane to methanol using rhodium and tested the effectiveness of rhodium catalysts under varying conditions. The catalysts, prepared using relatively simple procedures, were used to better convert methane to methanol and acetic acid using oxygen (O2) and carbon monoxide (CO) under mild conditions.

"The direct conversion of methane to liquid methanol has been an unsolved problem in catalysis," said Lee. "Through the use of various testing facilities, including Argonne's Advanced Photon Source, we were able to provide new insights into the atomic-scale structure of these noble catalysts, which are atomically dispersed rhodium complexes rather than nanoparticles."

In a commentary in Nature, based on the study, Ive Hermans, chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted that the research "links homogeneous organometallic chemistry ... with solid-phase (heterogeneous) catalysis, and illustrates the importance of understanding catalysts at the atomic scale."

In the study, the research team suggested that further research and testing will illuminate the mechanism and reaction pathways that will guide new methane conversion catalyst design.

"While our work is still far from commercial application, it may inspire research directions for new methane-converting catalysts," said Lee.

###

The Nature paper is titled "Mild oxidation of methane to methanol or acetic acid on supported isolated rhodium catalysts." Argonne's Advanced Photon Source is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. The research was funded by DOE's ARPA-E program.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

Media Contact

Jared Sagoff
jsagoff@anl.gov
630-252-5549

 @argonne

http://www.anl.gov 

Jared Sagoff | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Study gives clues to the origin of Huntington's disease, and a new way to find drugs
18.09.2019 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Scientists construct energy production unit for a synthetic cell
18.09.2019 | University of Groningen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Turbine from the 3D printer

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Novel mechanism of electron scattering in graphene-like 2D materials

17.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Novel anti-cancer nanomedicine for efficient chemotherapy

17.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>