U.S. researchers developing new way of making carbon materials from methane

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HOUSTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from U.S. Rice University have won federal backing for their method in turning natural gas into carbon nanotubes, which is expected to cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, according to a news release by the university on Monday.

Chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali and his colleagues from Rice University, based in Houston, Texas, have won a 3.3-million-U.S. dollar federal grant to develop a method to convert natural gas into carbon nanotubes for materials that can replace metals.

The Rice-led team will convert methane into carbon nanotubes, spin them into fibers, and evaluate their performance and properties, with the goal of displacing metals in large-scale applications to reduce the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions associated with metal production. The process would also produce valuable hydrogen as a side product.

Methane is the major component of natural gas. Several studies have showed that methane leaking from oil and gas fields is also problematic.

Pasquali noted his team will partner with the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company Shell, for its expertise "in all aspects of hydrocarbon production, conversion and processing, and because of Shell's progressive vision for an energy future in which we use hydrocarbons responsibly and limit carbon dioxide emissions."

He said the project will lay a foundation for understanding whether and how the conversion of natural gas into carbon nanotube materials can be made into a large-volume, economical process that could displace metals and other energy-inefficient materials at the level of hundreds of megatons per year.

"It is critical that we compress as much as possible the time scale for the development and deployment of this technology," he said. "The climate is already changing and we must act with urgency." Enditem

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