Research Matters

Increase funding to solve Europe’s challenges

An X-ray flash illuminates a molecule. (Image: University of Uppsala / Raphael Jay)
Using X-rays generated by two large research infrastructures in Switzerland, researchers reveal how the C-H bond in methane breaks in the presence of a catalyst. This crucial insight will allow development of better catalysts to transform the greenhouse gas methane into less harmful and in fact useful chemicals.

Methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is being released into the atmosphere at an alarming rate by livestock farming as well as the continuing unfreezing of permafrost. Transforming methane and longer-chain alkanes into less harmful and in fact useful chemicals would remove the associated threats, and in turn make available a huge feedstock for the chemical industry.

However, transforming methane necessitates as a first step the breaking of a carbon-hydrogen bond: one of the strongest chemical linkages in nature. Recently, using short flashes of X-ray light at research facilities including the Swiss X-ray free electron laser SwissFEL and Swiss Light Source SLS, scientists led by the University of Uppsala revealed how the carbon-hydrogen bonds breaks during this reaction, and how the catalyst works. This research brings scientists closer to developing better catalysts to transform methane into a less harmful and in fact useful chemicals.

Story: Based on a press release from Uppsala University with additions and modifications from Paul Scherrer Institute / Miriam Arrell