Scientists make hydrocarbon breakthrough using gold catalyst

Jan 13, 2011

Researchers from Cardiff University are opening up a new way of using hydrocarbon feedstocks to make a range of valuable products.

Hydrocarbons are an extremely important energy resource but, although widely available from fossil fuels, are extremely difficult to activate and require very in current industrial processes.

For the first time, the Cardiff study has shown that the primary carbon-hydrogen bonds in toluene, a hydrocarbon widely used as an industrial material, can be activated selectively at low temperatures.

Professor Graham Hutchings FRS, one of the study's co-authors and Cardiff University's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: "One of the key challenges facing chemists today is to activate primary carbon-hydrogen bonds in hydrocarbons to make more valuable and reactive molecules. This is crucial for the sustainable exploitation of available industrial feedstocks.

"Our research resulted in unprecedented yields of a single product of over 90%. We achieved this using a gold catalyst, an unexpected result as gold is the most noble of the elements."

This opens up the possibility of using feedstocks in a new way to form intermediates and final products for use in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural business sectors.

The research was carried out by a large team at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, in collaboration with researchers at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania. It was funded by a major research grant won by Cardiff University's School of Chemistry in 2008, when it was selected from hundreds of international bids as part of the Dow Methane Challenge.

The challenge was initiated by the Dow Chemical Company to identify collaborators and approaches in the area of methane conversion to chemicals.

Explore further: The fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

More information: The paper, 'Solvent-Free Oxidation of Primary Carbon-Hydrogen Bonds in Toluene Using Au-Pd Alloy Nanoparticles', is published in the most recent edition of Science.

Related Stories

Road to greener chemistry paved with nano-gold

Oct 24, 2005

The selective oxidation processes that are used to make compounds contained in agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and other chemical products can be accomplished more cleanly and more efficiently with gold nanoparticle catalysts, ...

New Direction for Hydrogen Atom Transfers

Oct 19, 2005

In the annals of chemistry, there are many examples of hydrogen atoms moving from metals to carbon atoms. But no one has ever directly observed the reverse reaction — hydrogen atoms moving from carbon to a metal — until ...

Sunlight turns carbon dioxide to methane

Mar 05, 2009

Dual catalysts may be the key to efficiently turning carbon dioxide and water vapor into methane and other hydrocarbons using titania nanotubes and solar power, according to Penn State researchers.

Recommended for you

The fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

10 hours ago

LMU researchers have developed a new process which will greatly simplify the process of sorting plastics in recycling plants. The method enables automated identification of polymers, facilitating rapid separation ...

Water and sunlight the formula for sustainable fuel

14 hours ago

An Australian National University (ANU) team has successfully replicated one of the crucial steps in photosynthesis, opening the way for biological systems powered by sunlight which could manufacture hydrogen ...

Researchers create engineered energy absorbing material

16 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Materials like solid gels and porous foams are used for padding and cushioning, but each has its own advantages and limitations. Gels are effective as padding but are relatively heavy; gel performance ...

Solar fuels as generated by nature

16 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Society's energy supply problems could be solved in the future using a model adopted from nature. During photosynthesis, plants, algae and some species of bacteria produce sugars and other energy-rich ...

User comments : 0