Chinese chemists take ‘Holy Grail’ leap to make low-carbon methanol


Researchers in China have found a new way to make methanol at room temperature with fewer by-products, a discovery that could revolutionise the way a key source of green energy is produced, according to a published study.
The scientists, from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, developed a novel catalyst that enables the direct conversion of methane to methanol at room temperature with fewer by-products than previous methods, opening a promising path toward energy efficient and environmentally sustainable methanol production.

China, India set to increase emissions by 2030; all major economies to miss reduction goals

Methanol – also known as wood alcohol – is widely used in the production of fuels, plastics, and medicines. But converting methane – a stable molecule – into higher-value chemicals such as methanol has long been regarded as the “Holy Grail” in the field of chemistry, according to a report on the academy’s website.

Traditional methods for breaking the carbon-hydrogen bonds of methane molecules have required extreme conditions, including temperatures over 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 Fahrenheit), and strong oxidising agents such as fuming sulphuric acid, or external fields like plasma. Those conditions have often led to over-conversion of the target product, generating undesirable by-products such as carbon dioxide.


China starts drilling second 10,000-metre hole in search of oil and natural gas

China starts drilling second 10,000-metre hole in search of oil and natural gas

But the new, Chinese-developed method is a “dream reaction” for the scientific community, according to the academy’s report. “It leverages low-cost, eco-friendly oxygen to facilitate the direct conversion of methane at room temperature,” it said.

Led by Professor Deng Dehui and Yu Liang at the State Key Laboratory of Catalysis at the Dalian institute, the team set out to find catalytic reactions that convert methane, carbon monoxide, methanol and carbon dioxide into higher-value chemicals at relatively mild temperatures.

Global clean energy transition must move at ‘warp speed’ to meet Paris goal: BCG

The researchers constructed active reaction sites on the surface of MoS2, a two-dimensional material.

The modified Mo atoms could then break down oxygen molecules at room temperature to form highly reactive molybdenum-oxygen clusters, which in turn react directly with methane.

In contrast to previous multi-step reactions with conversion rates lower than 1 per cent, this innovative catalytic system achieves direct oxidation with a remarkable conversion rate of 4.2 per cent at room temperature. Furthermore, the reaction generates few by-products, and product selectivity exceeds 99 per cent,” the academy’s report said.

Product selectivity refers to the ratio of the amount of a desired product obtained and the amount of a key reactant converted.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Catalysis on September 21.

As an important chemical intermediate, methanol is used to produce formaldehyde, dimethyl ether and acetic acid. As a cleaner source of energy, methanol is also gaining attention as a marine fuel for the shipping industry.


Chinese mainland begins supplying Hong Kong with carbon-neutral liquefied natural gas

Chinese mainland begins supplying Hong Kong with carbon-neutral liquefied natural gas

According to reports from the 2023 China Methanol Industry Conference, China’s total methanol production capacity has surpassed 100 million tonnes, with about 10 per cent of that produced from natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. In Western and Middle Eastern countries, 95 per cent of methanol production comes from natural gas, according to a report from Great Wall Securities.

The findings by Deng’s team offer fresh perspectives for the development of low-energy, low-carbon methanol production from natural gas. Once applied in industrial settings, industry experts said the advancement could significantly lower energy consumption and reduce equipment maintenance demands.


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button