Methane as raw material in synthetic chemistry: the final frontier
In spite of its large availability in natural or shale gas deposits, the use of methane in the chemical industry as feedstock from a synthetic point of view yet constitutes a challenge in modern chemistry. Only the production of the so-called syngas, a mixture of CO and H2 derived from the complete cleavage of the methane molecule, operates at the industrial level. The relevance of methane in the current industry, mainly toward methanol production, is described in this Tutorial. The methanol economy has been already proposed as an alternative to current fuel sources. Methanol synthesis directly from methane would imply the activation of the latter. Toward this end, the different methodologies reported to activate methane with transition metal complexes as well as the few examples of the catalytic functionalization of methane are presented.