America's current energy boom may take a new direction thanks to the discovery of a new way to turn raw natural gas into upgraded liquid alcohol fuel.
n the March 14 issue of Science magazine, chemists from Brigham Young University and The Scripps Research Institute detail a process that could reduce dependence on petroleum.
The most unexpected breakthrough in the paper was that ordinary "main group" metals like thallium and lead can trigger the conversion of natural gas to liquid alcohol. The research teams saw in experiments that natural gas to alcohol conversion occurs at 180 degrees Celsius -- just a fraction of the heat needed with traditional "transition metal" catalysts (1400-1600 degrees Celsius). The BYU team was crucial in using theory to understand how and why this process works at low temperatures and under mild conditions.
"This is a highly novel piece of work that opens the way to upgrading of natural gas to useful chemicals with simple materials and moderate conditions," said Robert Crabtree, a chemistry professor at Yale who is familiar with the new study.
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