Aqueous Au-Pd colloids catalyze selective CH4 oxidation to CH3OH with O2 under mild conditions

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Science  13 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 223-227
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6515

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A radical route from methane to methanol

The conversion of methane into chemicals usually proceeds through high-temperature routes that first form more reactive carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Agarwal et al. report a low-temperature (50°C) route in aqueous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) for oxidizing methane to methanol in high yield (92%). They used colloidal gold-palladium nanoparticles as a catalyst. The primary oxidant was O2; isotopic labeling showed that H2O2 activated methane to methyl radicals, which subsequently incorporated O2.

Science, this issue p. 223


The selective oxidation of methane, the primary component of natural gas, remains an important challenge in catalysis. We used colloidal gold-palladium nanoparticles, rather than the same nanoparticles supported on titanium oxide, to oxidize methane to methanol with high selectivity (92%) in aqueous solution at mild temperatures. Then, using isotopically labeled oxygen (O2) as an oxidant in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), we demonstrated that the resulting methanol incorporated a substantial fraction (70%) of gas-phase O2. More oxygenated products were formed than the amount of H2O2 consumed, suggesting that the controlled breakdown of H2O2 activates methane, which subsequently incorporates molecular oxygen through a radical process. If a source of methyl radicals can be established, then the selective oxidation of methane to methanol using molecular oxygen is possible.

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