New Opportunities With New Molecule
at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered a chemical reaction that seems to effectively convert highly stable alkanes into more valuable compounds. Nonclassical carbocations — ions with fewer electrons than protons, and thus a positive charge — contributed to the surprising results. The reaction someday might play a role in turning petroleum waste into feedstock’s for pharmaceuticals.
While it is far from perfect, it seems that this approach may be complementary to other approaches.
The researchers discovered that because the charge is shared among multiple atoms — the non-classical model — the molecule has more flexibility to undergo a diverse array of reactions, including those needed to break apart the strong bonds of alkanes.
Researchers are using chemical reaction to use methane and other light hydrocarbons as building blocks for complex molecule synthesis and to convert polyethylene into new polymers with different properties.
Further work in this will involve developing cheaper precursors and simpler catalysts that will allow use of these chemistries in a broad range of practical applications. The overall process for this may take ten years.