Chemists at Southern Methodist University in Dallas have found a cheaper, cleaner method to break the stubborn molecular bond between carbon and hydrogen, a development that could lead to better ways to derive products from petroleum.
“Some of the most useful building blocks we have in the world are simple, plentiful hydrocarbons like methane, which we extract from the ground. They can be used as starting materials for complex chemical products such as plastics and pharmaceuticals,” Isaac Garcia-Bosch, Harold A. Jeskey Endowed Chair and assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at SMU, told Eurekalert.org. “But the first step of the process is very, very difficult — breaking that carbon-hydrogen bond. The stronger the bond, the more difficult it is to oxidize.”
Oxidizing causes the molecule to undergo a reaction that combines with oxygen and breaks the carbon-hydrogen bonds, according to Eurekalert.
SMU chemists have been working on the project in collaboration with a team from the Johns Hopkins University.
According to the report, Garcia-Bosch and chemist Maxime A. Siegler, director of the X-Ray Crystallography facility at the Johns Hopkins University, used copper catalysts in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide to create the carbon-oxygen bonds.
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