The growth of the hydrofracturing (“fracking”) industry in the U.S. has increased the production of methane, whose uses as both a fuel and feedstock are extremely valuable in the petrochemical industry. But since most fracking occurs in rural and isolated areas far from production facilities, the cost to store and transport methane is very high. Since methane is a significant greenhouse gas, it is being flared as it is released into the atmosphere resulting in approximately $16 billion of value loss annually.
However, there may be a way to use light to economically convert the methane on-site into valuable chemicals, not too dissimilar from how a plant transforms the sun’s energy into fuel.
The Pitt researcher, Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis, is one of the leading researchers in computational catalysis which utilizes high-processing computer power to sustainably design novel catalysts, reducing trial and error in the lab as well as expense.
More information at https://news.engineering.pitt.edu/shining-a-light-on-methane-transformation/