As methane is extremely inert, its conversion into a form suitable for chemical use has been achieved by an indirect process in which methane is first converted to synthesis gas and then to methanol and to ethylene glycol1. One disadvantage of this route of conversion is that it requires conditions of high temperature and pressure2. Here we report the direct conversion of methane to methanol, chloromethane and dichloromethane at the three-phase interface (gas/solution/electrode) on illumination at room temperature. The key steps in this process are: (1) electrochemical oxidation of the chloride ion; (2) generation of the chlorine radical under illumination; and (3) formation of the methyl radical by the reaction of methane with the chlorine radical.
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Ogura, K., Takamagari, K. Direct conversion of methane to methanol, chloromethane and dichloromethane at room temperature. Nature 319, 308 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/319308a0