Bioinspired methane oxidation in a zeolite


Fundamental advances have enhanced our understanding of how to activate the very stable C–H bonds in methane (1), but its conversion into useful chemicals such as methanol through simple, cost-effective, modular processes is still an unsolved problem (2). Living systems oxidize hydrocarbons, including methane, at near-ambient temperatures using enzymes that contain Earth-abundant metals (typically iron and copper). However, their electronic structures favor single-electron transfers that generate highly reactive radical intermediates (3). Escape of these radicals from the vicinity of an enzyme’s active site must be scrupulously avoided to prevent damage to nearby biological structures. On page 327 of this issue, Snyder et al. (4) demonstrate how one of nature’s strategies can be mimicked in an iron-containing zeolite that promotes radical formation and capture in rapid succession. This gating of molecular transport regenerates the active sites while limiting the propensity of radicals to deactivate active sites located in other zeolite pores.

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