Scientists working with the University of Pennsylvania, together with other researchers from Italy and Spain, now claim to have developed a new catalyst that can help burn methane 30 times more efficiently that current technologies.
Given the fact that methane can constitute an important source of power it burnt appropriately and made to release all of the energy stored within its molecules, the scientists maintain that their findings might very easily lead to a considerably cheaper and much more environmentally friendly way of producing energy through catalytic combustion in gas turbines.
As they explain, methane is the main ingredient of natural gas, but up until now its very stable molecular structure kept us from burning it efficiently and making the most of its power-generating ability.
Seeing how methane also releases considerably lower amounts of carbon dioxide when burnt, being able to increase our dependence on this natural resource can both improve on our society's ecological footprint and bring forth cheaper energy costs.
Preliminary tests of this catalyst show that it can burn methane at temperatures of 400 degrees Celsius (752 degree Fahrenheit), whereas the other catalysts presently available on the market and used in gas turbines only do so at temperatures of more than 800 degrees Celsius (1472 degrees Fahrenheit).
The researchers explain that, in conventional gas turbines, the final burning temperature can go as high as 1300 degrees Celsius (2372 degrees Fahrenheit), something which leads to harmful by-products (nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and carbon monoxide) being released into the atmosphere.
Moreover, the catalysts now in use worldwide do not succeed in burning all of the methane they come in contact with, therefore allowing some of it to escape the reaction and built up in the air.
Because unburnt methane is a major cause of global warming, being able to put a leash on this phenomena comes as good news.
“It’s possible to envision this catalyst contributing to pollution control from automotive exhaust and maybe even improving the efficiency of gas turbines,” explained scientist Matteo Cargnello.