Chemistry

A thinner window for shining light on shale gas

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Science  06 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6188, pp. 1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6188.1129-c

A light-powered chemical reaction ultimately could help turn shale gas into plastic. When hydrocarbons such as butane come out of the ground, the carbon atoms in each molecule are connected by single bonds. Chowdhury et al. show at small scale that a soluble rhodium carbonyl catalyst, activated by light, efficiently snips hydrogen atoms off the molecules to create the more reactive carbon-carbon double bonds needed to make products such as plastics. Past efforts to remove hydrogen photochemically without creating by-products tended to be inefficient, but the authors suspected that flask walls might have been partly responsible by blocking some of the light. Using thin-walled glass flasks and an additive that activated the catalyst, the authors achieved on the order of 100 turnover cycles per hour for a range of different hydrocarbons.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53, 10.1002/anie.201402287 (2014).

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