Researchers at a German chemical company have developed a method to convert methane to methanesulfonic acid (MSA) with a yield and selectivity of nearly 100% (Science 2019, DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0177). The procedure, which involves just two reactants—methane and oleum (a solution of sulfur trioxide in sulfuric acid)—may provide a low-cost route to MSA, a biodegradable strong acid manufactured at the multi-metric-ton level for use in the pharmaceutical and electroplating industries.
Searching for an economical way to directly convert methane to MSA, chemists Christian Díaz-Urrutia and Timo Ott of Grillo-Werke began studying whether methane–sulfur trioxide chemistry could help. They came up with a low-temperature (50 °C) metal-free route. Now, the researchers report they have constructed a pilot plant and produced metric-ton quantities of MSA at 99.9% purity. They have also deduced the reaction mechanism, which is key to further improving the process.
The University of Bremen inorganic chemist says the study not only “opens a selective, green, and scalable route to MSA” but also helps chemists understand fundamentals of methane activation and methane-based chemistry.
Reference from c&en news.
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