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Research targets 'holy grail' of catalysis
Date:1/14/2014

ent plays in this process and if we do that then we want to use that knowledge to design a catalyst that can break the carbon-hydrogen bond at lower temperatures," he said.

Grabow then will run simulations exploring the ability of different combinations of catalysts (including various metal alloys, metal-oxides and zeolite crystals) and oxidizing agents (such as oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and carbon dioxide) to detach a hydrogen atom from methane molecules at low temperatures. This should keep the methyl on the surface of the catalyst, allowing researchers to then convert it to more valuable chemicals.

Promising combinations identified by Grabow's simulations will then be explored through experiments conducted by Bill Epling, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Cullen College and Grabow's collaborator on the project.

If they're successful, Grabow said, their findings will only cover the first half of converting methane into other chemicals. Additional research will be needed to find ways to best transform the remaining and stable methyl fragment into the materials like methanol, ethane and ethylene.

Success in just the first part of the reaction, though, would be a major breakthrough, said Grabow.

"If we can find a way to separate one hydrogen atom from a methane molecule, our hope is that processes that aim to upgrade methane to a higher value product can be carried out more selectively. No one has understood this process. It's a very fundamental question we're trying to answer with a very big potential impact."


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Contact: Jeannie Kever
jekever@uh.edu
713-743-0778
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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