Turning methane into methanol under ambient conditions using light by The ‘holy grail of catalysis

An international team of researchers, led by scientists at the University of Manchester, has developed a fast and economical method of converting methane, or natural gas, into liquid Methanol. The method uses visible light to drive the conversion under continuous flow. The researchers used the VISION instrument at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to observe how the process works.

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The method involves a continuous flow of methane/oxygen-saturated water over a novel metal-organic framework catalyst. The porous MOF contains different components that have different roles to play in absorbing light, transferring electrons, and bringing together methane and oxygen.

The water can easily be used to extract liquid methanol. The area of focus for research supported by the U.S. is considered to be a process known as a “holy grail of catalysis”.

The Department of Energy is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The details of the team’s findings, titled “Direct photo-oxidation of methane to methanol over a mono-iron hydroxyl site,” are published in Nature Materials.

Methane is a valuable fuel used in ovens, furnaces, water heaters, kilns, automobiles and turbine. There are challenges to transporting and storing methane.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas when it’s released. Fossil fuel production and use, rotting or burning, are some of the main sources of methane.

Excess methane can be flared to reduce its impact. This process produces greenhouse gas. Methane can be used to make a variety of consumer and industrial products and has long been sought by industry for an efficient way to convert it. This would encourage people to reduce methane emissions.

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