• catalysis;
  • methane;
  • oxidations;
  • radicals;
  • reaction mechanisms
  • Heterogeneous catalysis;
  • Oxidation;
  • Methane activation


One of the great challenges in the field of heterogeneous catalysis is the conversion of methane to more useful chemicals and fuels. A chemical of particular importance is ethene, which can be obtained by the oxidative coupling of methane. In this reaction CH4 is first oxidatively converted into C2H6, and then into C2H4. The fundamental aspects of the problem involve both a heterogeneous component, which includes the activation of CH4 on a metal oxide surface, and a homogeneous gas-phase component, which includes free-radical chemistry. Ethane is produced mainly by the coupling of the surface-generated CHmath image radicals in the gas phase. The yield of C2H4 and C2H6 is limited by secondary reactions of CHmath image radicals with the surface and by the further oxidation of C2H4, both on the catalyst surface and in the gas phase. Currently, the best catalysts provide 20% CH4 conversion with 80% combined C2H4 and C2H6 selectivity in a single pass through the reactor. Less is known about the nature of the active centers than about the reaction mechanism; however, reactive oxygen ions are apparently required for the activation of CH4 on certain catalysts. There is spectroscopic evidence for surface O or Omath image ions. In addition to the oxidative coupling of CH4, cross-coupling reactions, such as between methane and toluene to produce styrene, have been investigated. Many of the same catalysts are effective, and the cross-coupling reaction also appears to involve surface-generated radicals. Although a technological process has not been developed, extensive research has resulted in a reasonable understanding of the elementary reactions that occur during the oxidative coupling of methane.