Methane the main component of natural gas (~95%) is found in abundance in nature and generated from digestion from organic matter. The hydrogen-carbon bond is unreactive and requires either high temperature (950C) or a highly specialized catalyst to convert it into useful products.
Graphitic Carbon Nanofibers can be synthetized from the decomposition of methane (natural gas) over a specially formulated catalyst. Well controlled reaction conditions result in the growth of materials having the highest purity (Figure a). The accepted mechanism for the growth process was first presented by Terry Baker, VP for Research at Catalytic Materials in 1972 J. Catalysis, 26, page 51. The carbon-hydrogen bond breaks over the surface of the catalyst, atomic carbon is formed, which diffuses through the intersticies of the catalyst particles like sugar through a seive and deposits as perfect graphene layers. Technology covered under PatentsUS 6,995,115 B2, (2006) and US 7,001,566 B2, (2006). Technology Available for License from August 2014.
(b) The as-produced stacks of graphene are held together by weak van der Waals forces. The attached catalyst particle is subsequently washed away to leave behind stacks of graphene of 99.999 % purity (Figure b).
Catalytic Materials has developed a proprietary method (Patent Pending) to separate individual graphene layers without the use of harsh chemical treatments that involve concentrated acids (Figure c). The individual graphene molecules are easily dispersed in a variety of liquid media and can be collected with the aid of ribbons.