Converting Methane Into Useful Chemicals

Researchers have created a catalyst that can convert methane into formaldehyde at more than twice the previous efficiency.

AsianScientist (Jan. 28, 2019) – A research group in South Korea has found a way to convert the greenhouse gas methane into formaldehyde, a chemical used as a raw material for bactericides, preservatives and functional polymers. The findings are published in the Journal of Catalysis.

Methane, which is the main constituent of natural gas, can be converted into useful resources through chemical reactions. However, the chemical structure of methane is so stable that it does not easily react with other substances.

A high temperature above 600°C is required to trigger a reaction that changes the chemical structure of methane. Therefore, a catalyst that has a stable structure retains its catalytic activity in high-temperature environments is required. Previously, vanadium oxide and molybdenum oxide were known to be the best catalysts, but their conversion efficiency was a low 10 percent.

In the present study, scientists led by Professor Ahn Kwang-jin of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) developed a nanomaterial catalyst that converted methane into formaldehyde with more than 22 percent efficiency. The catalyst has a core-shell structure consisting of vanadium oxide nanoparticles surrounded by a thin aluminum film.

Testing their catalyst at temperatures above 600°C, the researchers showed that the aluminum shell protected the vanadium oxide particles, keeping the catalyst stable and reactive even under extreme heat treatment. As a result, the efficiency of converting methane to formaldehyde was more than double that of conventional catalysts.

“The catalytic vanadium oxide nanoparticles are surrounded by a thin aluminum film, which effectively prevents the agglomeration and structural deformation of the internal particles,” said study first author Dr. Yang Euiseob of UNIST, adding that the lab plans to scale up their technology for industrial applications.

The article can be found at: Yang et al. (2018) SiO2@V2O5@AL2O3 Core–shell Catalysts With High Activity and Stability for Methane Oxidation to Formaldehyde.


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist