Our fossil fuel reserves are limited. When they run out, we will not only be lacking in fuel, but chemical industry will lose its most important feedstock. In contrast, natural gas has barely been used as a raw material.
If it were possible to efficiently convert methane, the main component of natural gas, into chemically useful materials like methanol, we would gain some time to make the transition to alternative sources of raw materials. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Manfred T. Reetz and a team at the Max Planck Institute for Carbon Research in Mülheim (Germany) have now introduced a new approach for the enzymatic production of methanol from methane. Their secret is the inclusion of an inert guest in the enzyme’s binding pocket in order to make it smaller so that it can effectively bind methane.
Methanol is a useful starting material for many chemical syntheses, and it can also be added to conventional fuels to drive fuel cells. Conventional processes for producing methanol from methane involve detours (synthesis gas), are markedly complex and energy intensive, and require high temperatures and pressures. Nature, on the other hand, has a much more elegant route: the enzyme methane monooxygenase does the job gently and efficiently. Unfortunately this is a very complex enzyme that cannot easily be produced and used in an artificial environment. The cytochrome P450 (CYP) family of enzymes could represent an alternative starting point. The main job of these enzymes is the oxidation of various substances produced by the body or introduced to it. In the reaction, carbon–hydrogen bonds are oxidized to make alcohol groups (–OH). The active component of these enzymes is a heme, an iron–porphyrin complex similar to that in our hemoglobin.
The problem is that the binding pocket of this enzyme is just too big to snugly bind and oxidize small molecules such as methane. Instead of trying to devise complex methods to create a suitable enzyme, Reetz and his co-workers came up with a clever trick: chemically “tuning” a CYP enzyme. The scientists added an additional guest into the binding pocket in order to make it smaller.
The natural substrates for CYP enzymes are fatty acids. As a guest molecule, the researchers chose a compound that resembles a fatty acid, a carbonic acid in which all of the hydrogen atoms in the hydrocarbon chain have been replaced with fluorine atoms. This type of molecule is as water-repellent as the original, but takes up more room. The fluorine atoms make it chemically inert so that it does not participate in any reactions. Like the molecule it is modeled on, this guest is able to bring the iron–heme complex of the enzyme into its catalytically active state (high-spin state). The significantly smaller binding pocket now allows methane to bind effectively so that it can be oxidized to methanol.
Says Reetz: “The road to success is still far for a technical implementation, yet, the concept opens up new perspectives for the development of further reactions, such as the oxidation of other chemical compounds.”
Author: Manfred T. Reetz, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr (Germany), http://www.kofo.mpg.de/manfred-reetz.html
Title: Tuning a P450 Enzyme for Methane Oxidation
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201006587
Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex
New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
25.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences