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Methane is one of the most polluting gases in the atmosphere. Its removal can help reduce emissions.

Methane is natural gas’ main component, a less-impactful alternative to fossil fuels. This has consequences, as methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled from pre-industrial levels.

Methane is much more powerful than CO 2 as a greenhouse gas and is the second gas that contributes the most to global warming. To avoid the 2-degree increase in global temperature that was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement, not only CO 2 emissions must be reduced, but also methane emissions writes the Barcelona Tech – UPC – in a press release.

One of the most effective ways to remove methane is to use a catalyst that accelerates its oxidation with air. For a long time, the best catalysts to eliminate methane used palladium nanoparticles supported on ceramic oxides. However, they stop working when in contact with water steam, which is always present in the combustion of natural gas. 

The solution

What is the solution? Adding platinum atoms to the palladium nanoparticles. This is what UPC researchers found out, together with researchers from the University of Udine (Italy) and the ALBA Synchrotron. The work, published in Nature Communications , has been led by Núria Jiménez Divins, Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher, and Jordi Llorca Piqué , the current vice-rector for Research, both from the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute of Energy Techniques of the UPC, linked to the Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE), at the Diagonal Campus- Kisses.

The researchers have compared the data they obtained in experiments carried out in three different beamlines of the ALBA Synchrotron. Using synchrotron light, what they discovered is that the oxidation states of palladium and platinum play a key role in the removal of methane. Furthermore, a catalyst prepared with mechanochemical methods is more active and perfectly resistant to water. This catalyst –which has already been patented– is today, the most effective in the world to remove methane. It can find application in the catalytic converters of vehicles equipped with a combustion engine and domestic turbines and boilers that work with natural gas.

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