Professor Moon Jun-hyuk Leads Research Team from Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering to Develop Zero-Energy Methane Conversion Technology Using Sunlight

- Research results published in ACS Energy Letters, the top academic journal in the field of energy -

(From left) Professor Moon Jun-hyuk and Ph.D. Student Lee Jae-hyun

from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


The research team led by Professor Moon Jun-hyuk of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department (corresponding author: Professor Moon Jun-hyuk, first author: Ph.D. student Lee Jae-hyun, second author: Master’s student Yang Ji-woo) developed a technology that oxidizes methane at room temperature and converts it to methanol using an electrochemical catalyst. The research results were achieved with the support of the C1 Gas Refinery Project promoted by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the results were published on February 15 in ACS Energy Letters, the energy field's leading academic journal.

Because methane is a stable material with high binding energy, in order to break its chemical bond and cause a reaction, high energy, such as high temperature, is required. However, high temperature conditions make it difficult to obtain a desired product with high selectivity, because the product can be decomposed again in such conditions. Accordingly, the research team contemplated a technology to convert methane at a low temperature (such as room temperature) and attempted to apply this as another energy source to replace thermal energy.

The research team used a transition metal oxide mixed with copper oxide and cerium oxide, which is advantageous for storing and transporting oxygen used for oxidation, as a catalyst, and by applying a voltage to accelerate the oxidation reaction to the catalyst, they succeeded in inducing methane conversion at room temperature. Through this process, the team achieved a methane-methanol conversion rate that exceeds the rate of conventional chemical catalysts at room temperature, along with methanol selectivity at more than 80%. In particular, a zero-energy chemical process that can convert methane without the supply of external power was proposed by connecting solar cells in applying voltage.

Prof. Moon revealed the significance of the study, saying, "We expect to be able to replace the chemical process, which has been regarded as the 'chimney industry,' with sustainable eco-friendly processes."

A conceptual diagram of the methane electrochemical conversion system

incorporating solar cells