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UVa Leads New Methane Research Center

By: Myles Henderson Email
By: Myles Henderson Email

Almost every time you fill up your car with gasoline it has 10 to 15 percent ethanol mix in. Ethanol is a biofuel, made from crops like corn, that decreases our dependence on foreign oil, but may not be the best long term solution. Uva Chemistry Professor, Brent Gunnoe says, "If we can develop a catalyst technology that can take natural gas to methanol , then you'll start to see fuels with gasoline blended with methanol in it."

This is the primary goal of the new 11 million dollar Energy Frontier Research Center. "The center itself is actually dispersed over 10 universities, it is centered at the University of Virginia." Over the next 5 years, scientists will work to developing better technology to convert natural gas and methane into higher value liquid fuels. Gunnoe says, "Natural gas is not a carbon neutral resource, but is a resource that has more energy potential per unit of carbon, per molecule of carbon dioxide emitted, than coal or petroleum for example."

Right now this technology exists but is very cost and energy intensive. Gunnoe added, "If alternative technologies could be developed to make this process more economically viable, more environmentally friendly, and less energy intensive it could really open the door to a large new resource base."

Gunnoe says that it may take years before we see methanol mixed with our gasoline but this research is an important step in the search for the perfect alternative energy source.

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