Chemists Lay Groundwork for Countless New, Cleaner Uses of Methane

A research team led by Daniel J. Mindiola, Presidential Term Professor of Chemistry, has demonstrated the potential to use methane not as a fossil fuel but as a versatile chemical building block with which to make more complex molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and other value-added substances. The reaction also offers a way of taking advantage of the properties of methane without releasing greenhouse gases.

“Finding ways to use methane besides burning it as a fuel constitutes a practical approach to using this abundant gas,” says Mindiola, senior author on the paper. “Our method will hopefully provide inspiration to move away from burning our resources and instead using them more as a carbon building block to prepare more valuable materials.”

The study is published in Science.

Mindiola collaborated on the work with Kyle T. Smith, a graduate student in Mindiola’s lab and the paper’s lead author; Simon Berritt, director of the High Throughput Screening Center; Mariano González-Moreiras, a visiting scholar; Seihwan Ahn and Mu-Hyun Baik of Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; and Milton R. Smith III, a professor at Michigan State University who, together with Robert Maleczka, first discovered the chemical reaction known as carbon-hydrogen borylation upon which the current work builds.

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