Liquid methanol is widely used as a feedstock for other chemicals and also has considerable potential as an alternative fuel source.

However, converting methane--the primary component of abundant natural gas--into methanol is currently achieved by an indirect process which requires high heat and pressure.

Now researchers have discovered a new approach that allows the direct conversion of methane to methanol utilizing molecular oxygen under much milder reaction conditions.

A collaborative team led by Graham J. Hutchings at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, and Christopher J. Kiely at Lehigh University, have used colloidal gold-palladium (Au-Pd) nanoparticles to directly oxidize methane to methanol with high selectivity in aqueous solution at low temperatures.

Their findings have been published in an article in Science today: "Aqueous Au-Pd colloids catalyze selective CH4 oxidation to CH3OH with O2 under mild conditions."

"Our work has shown that if a stable supply of methyl radicals can be established--for example, by incorporating a very small amount of hydrogen peroxide into the reaction mixture--then the selective oxidation of methane to methanol using molecular oxygen is entirely feasible," said Kiely, the Harold B.

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