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A Nonoxidative Approach to Methane Functionalization: Efforts Towards Realizing the Methanol Economy

Head shot of Prof. Kensha Clark, African-American woman wearing reddish-orange blouse
Prof. Kensha Clark
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Mississippi
iSTEM-2 Building, Room 1218
Inorganic Seminar

Methane, CH4, is considered a pillar of the petrochemical industry. It is a major component of fossil fuels, a byproduct of waste decomposition, and a potent greenhouse gas. The potential of methane as a fuel source is greatly limited by the means in which this flammable gas may be transported. In this regard, functionalization of CH4 to yield products that are liquids under ambient conditions holds great promise. We have made efforts towards facile methane functionalization under mild, nonoxidative conditions. It has been found that d10 transition metal ions supported by tripodal tris(2-iminoethyl)amine ligands rapidly isomerize, shifting between different coordination geometries, much like behavior observed at protein active sites. When these complexes are paired with a bulky base, sterically frustrated Lewis pairs (FLPs), which are known to heterolytically cleave bonds in a variety of small molecules, are formed. In this presentation, our work with zinc-based FLPs will be discussed. Specifically, the room temperature C-H bond activation of methane facilitated by these FLP systems and ongoing efforts towards methanol production will be described.

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