National Science Foundation Funds Methane Research With Potential for Greener Energy, Manufacturing

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Ryan Hartman is trying to solve the difficult problem of controlling methane’s carbon-hydrogen bonds at moderate temperatures — a problem which, if solved, could lead to greener energy, improve the manufacture of commodities, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, and perhaps even keep future intergalactic travelers healthy.

He is doing so with the help of a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, more widely known as a CAREER Award. The NSF is providing $501,000 over five years to research methane — the most stable of the carbon compounds and therefore the one that poses the most difficulty in separating its bonds at moderate temperatures. Resulting scientific discoveries and processes could also reduce by at least one order of magnitude the cost of synthetizing certain less-stable molecules used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals as well as fine chemicals, which are pure enough to use in manufacturing and research.

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