Washington, November 12 (ANI): Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research and at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces have developed a catalyst that converts methane to methanol in a simple and efficient process.
Although there are chemical ways to convert methane to methanol, which is easy to transport and which is suitable as a raw material for the chemical industry, "the processes commonly used up to now for producing diesel fuel - steam reforming followed by methanol synthesis or Fischer-Tropsch synthesis - are not economical," said Ferdi Schuth, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mulheim an der Ruhr.
He and his colleagues have been working with Markus Antonietti and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam to develop a catalyst that might change all this.
The catalyst consists of a nitrogenous material, a covalent, triazine-based network (CTF) synthesized by the chemists in Potsdam.
"This solid is so porous that the surface of a gram is approximately equivalent in size to a fifth of a football field," said Markus Antonietti.
Thanks to the large surface area, the catalyst oxidizes the methane efficiently to methanol, as it offers the methane a large area in which to react when the chemists immerse it in oxidizing sulphuric acid, force methane into the acid and heat the mixture to 215 degree Celsius under pressure.
Methanol is created from more than three-quarters of the converted gas.
A catalyst manufactured by the American chemist Roy Periana more than ten years ago from platinum and simple nitrogenous bipyrimidine also effectively creates methanol, but only supports the reaction in a soluble form.
The catalyst developed by the Max Planck chemists probably uses the same mechanism as the Periana catalyst and was indeed inspired by it.
"When I saw the structure of CTF, I noticed the elements which correspond to its bipyrimidine ligands," said Schuth. "That's when I had the idea of manufacturing the solid catalyst," he added.
To get closer to a large-scale technical application, he and his colleagues are now attempting to enable the process to work with reactants in gaseous rather than soluble form. (ANI)