Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by users of the Molecular Foundry, is making this process a little easier. The research, published earlier this year in Nature Chemistry, could pave the way for the adoption of cheaper, cleaner-burning fuels.
Hydrocarbons, like ethane and methane, could be used as fuel but they’re hard to store and transport because they’re gases. The research team focused on creating a new metal-organic framework (MOF) that serves as a catalyst able to selectively turn them into alcohols, like ethanol, which is much easier to transfer and store. Ethanol is a potential alternative fuel that burns cleaner and has a higher energy density than other alternative fuels like methanol.