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June 2014

A New Chemical Recipe Raises Prospect of Inexpensive Fuel


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. ┬áThe 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.

Read the full Berkeley Lab news story or the blog post from Scientific American.