Solar Energy & Advanced Materials Research Group


New Paper in Nature Catalysis

26 November 2018

A recent publication from our group titled, "

TiO2-Fe nature.com/articles/s41929-018-0170-x.epdf?author_access_token=YJUwPWk8t7BIEFo9ZTU57dRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0MQkxOG3RPZhnsIyCHTQhQxrNywAzIBz2EiaSQXgm8VQCnWyKHVvjx6DaGnk4eOgjpoJUoXKDgAUo0702PmDSSs_QgLz7ISDTBpIbh4XinY8g%3D%3D" target="_blank">Highly selective oxidation of methane to methanol at ambient conditions by titanium dioxide- supported iron species" has been highlighted in the prestigious Nature Catalysis journal.

Broader Context

Prof. Junwang Tang

The ongoing discovery of unprecedented reserves of methane from both shale gas and fire ice which is predicted much more than the overall reserves of fossil fuel, points to methane as a potential alternative to crude oil and coal, not only as an energy vector but also as an important chemical feedstock. 

Due to the high stability of the C-H bonds in methane, the negligible electron affinity, and the low polarizability, an energy-intensive and CO2 emission-intensive multi-step process under high temperature (a few hundred degree Celsius) and/or pressures (tens bar) is normally required to transform methane in an efficient chemical process. Thus such transformation of methane to either liquid fuels or value-added products is considered as the "holy grail" in the field of catalysis. 

Inspired by previous studies on photocatalytic inorganic molecule conversion (eg. H2O, N2 and CO2), we designed to utilises photons to drive methane transformation to liquid fuels at ambient conditions instead of high temperature and high pressure, eg. methanol, by titanium dioxide-supported earth abundant metal iron as a catalyst. This low-cost optimised catalyst can convert methane to alcohols (methanol and ethanol) with selectivity over 97%. Consequently, we achieved highly selective methane conversion to fuels at dramatically reduced reaction temperature and pressure thus saving an enormous amount of capital investment, running cost and mitigating safety and environmental concern on CO2 emissions in a conventional process.

These findings in the present work pave a new strategy for selective methane conversion at very moderate conditions, thus promising an economic and alternative industrial process for continuous supply of liquid fuels and chemical feedstock by a green technology for next generations.