PARIS: Methane is a greenhouse gas about 80 times more powerful than CO2, but easier to reduce or eliminate from the atmosphere (taking about ten years compared to 100 years for carbon dioxide).
Researchers at the Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen have developed an innovation in the field of green chemistry to reduce the impact of methane on the environment.
Their idea is to use carbohydrates, which are powerful enough to capture methane from the atmosphere and then neutralise it in some way.
“A carbohydrate captures methane by binding it to itself and encapsulating it in a small ring. But because methane gas is made up of very tiny and difficult-to-catch molecules, the carbohydrate’s binding ability must be strong, which is what we need to improve.
“The first step is to fully understand the process. But I think there’s a good chance for us to succeed in getting it to work relatively soon,” outlined Mikael Bols, Department of Chemistry professor and project lead, in a press release.
And it’s not a brand new idea: it was by consulting a chemistry book that researchers discovered the potential of carbohydrates to bind methane. A method referenced by German scientists in… 1957!
The technique uses a liquid that contains the sugar, carbohydrate α-cyclodextrin, that binds to methane. To recover the captured gas, the liquid can be heated slightly.
The released methane would then be placed in a tank. One of the crucial next steps will be to determine what use can be made of the captured methane.
“Perhaps it can be recycled, or stored underground, or converted into another substance. Techniques to do so already exist,” said Mikael Bols.
The research time associated with this project, financed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, will take place over three years.
Resulting from livestock farming, landfills open to the air and fossil fuel exploitation, methane is currently responsible for about 30% of global warming.