Scientists Claim Breakthrough in Converting Cow Farts to Useful Liquid Fuel

By Gary Cutlack on at

Something quite interesting and serious that might help save the world without making everyone drive an electric car and live on insect protein has been revealed by researchers, who claim to have found a straightforward method of converting troublesome and abundant natural gas methane into potential engine-powering juice methanol.

The paper published in Nature makes quite the big deal about converting the gas into methanol at room temperature, a task made difficult thanks to the relatively benign nature of methane and the difficulty in getting it to react with other substances.

The key discovery is an iron-containing catalyst, one that can convert methane to ethanol in a relatively simple manner. Here, for the benefit of anyone who may have a chemistry degree, is an utterly baffling explanation of how it works: "Magnetic circular dichroism reveals α-Fe(II) to be a mononuclear, high-spin, square planar Fe(II) site, while the reactive intermediate, α-O, is a mononuclear, high-spin Fe(IV)=O species, whose exceptional reactivity derives from a constrained coordination geometry enforced by the zeolite lattice. These findings illustrate the value of our approach to exploring active sites in heterogeneous systems."

Cow farts = possible posh new clean petrol by the year 2040, is the layman's takeaway here. [Phys]

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