A Perspective on the Electrochemical Oxidation of Methane to Methanol in Membrane Electrode Assemblies
Direct conversion of methane to methanol has been a long-sought objective. Partial oxidation by thermal catalysis is possible but suffers from a rapid loss in methanol selectivity with increasing methane conversion. More recently, the electrochemical oxidation of methane, using water, rather than oxygen, as the oxidizing agent has been considered in both aqueous electrolyte systems and membrane–electrode assemblies (MEAs). While promising results have been demonstrated using MEAs, the absence of key metrics of system performance make it hard to compare and contrast the results of different investigators. This Perspective examines why MEAs are well-suited for the electrochemical oxidation of methane, defines the metrics for assessing MEA performance, and reviews the progress in the field. An analysis of the challenges to finding suitable electrocatalysts is included with the aim of guiding the search for electrocatalysts that would be both active and selective for the conversion of methane to methanol.