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Direct conversion of methane into methanol and acetic acid

By Scott Jenkins |

In a recent paper, published in Nature, the Flytzani-Stephanopoulos group from Tufts University (Medford, Mass.; www.tufts.edu) identified a new method for the direct conversion of methane into methanol or acetic acid under mild conditions using oxygen, carbon monoxide and a heterogeneous rhodium catalyst. This is said to be the first such demonstration in the scientific literature. The researchers synthesized single-atom rhodium species anchored on the internal walls of zeolites or on the surface of titanium oxide (TiO2) supports. These materials catalyze the direct oxidation of methane with oxygen and carbon monoxide in aqueous solutions. A key aspect of the catalyst synthesis was atomically dispersing the rhodium species, the researchers say. This was achieved by “a special heat-treatment protocol on the zeolite support and by anchoring the rhodium precursor species on reduced titania assisted by ultraviolet irradiation,” the group says. The reactions were carried out under mild pressures (20–30 bars) and temperatures (<150°C). The researchers found that carbon monoxide is essential to the gas mixture in order to produce methanol. Also, by carefully controlling the reaction conditions, particularly the acidity of the…
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