The bond breaker

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Science  27 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6191, pp. 1474-1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6191.1474

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Many chemists strive to be grand architects, building imposing molecular edifices with dozens or even hundreds of atoms, bonds twisting this way and that. Not Roy Periana. He has spent his career focused on just one bond, a link between a carbon and a hydrogen atom in a molecule of methane, the main component of natural gas. Working with colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, Periana has come up with a new way to tweak this bond. If he can perfect his technique, it would give chemists a cheap, efficient way to convert natural gas to methanol and other key starter materials for the petrochemical industry. It's a simple change that could have profound effects—especially as the shale drilling boom provides abundant new supplies of natural gas.