Direct conversion of methane into fuels and platform molecules has been for a long time a “holy grail” in chemistry. The high C-H bond energy, absence of functional groups and of the polarity result in a very low methane chemical reactivity.

The goals of the SolarMethaChem project are to develop new fundamental research relevant to the photochemical selective transformation of methane to higher hydrocarbons (methane coupling)  by means of solar radiation and to design novel, recoverable, stable and recyclable highly efficient and selective photochemical systems.

The specific project targets are summarized below:

-    Nanoengineering of new nanocomposite materials for the efficient coupling of methane to ethane and higher hydrocarbons, occurring at room temperature in the presence of UV and visible light;

-   New fundamental information about physico-chemical, electronic properties, and charge transfer in the nanocomposite showing photoactivity in the methane coupling;

-    Identification of the reaction mechanisms of the methane photochemical coupling;

-  Optimization of the photochemical reactor and operating conditions for the quantitative synthesis of ethane and higher hydrocarbons from methane with high yield under ambient conditions.

Three research groups in France (CNRS-UCCS), Finland (University of Helsinki) and Poland (Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry PAS) with complementary expertise in catalysis, materials science and modeling will carry out the project.