Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara University

First Advisor

Prashanth Asuri


The purpose of this project was to develop a device that will make natural gas, primarily methane, an efficient and economical fuel alternative as the world’s petroleum supply is diminished. Presently, methane gas is too costly and dangerous to convert to methanol. The direct oxidation of methane can reduce the processing and transportation costs creating a competitive alternative to petroleum. This device will be marketable to companies interested in alternative fuel sources competitive with petroleum. Entrepreneurs are then expected step in and develop a global market. With the development of our prototypes and running methane and oxygen (or atmospheric oxygen) through the systems, we were able to detect the presence of methanol. We worked with a porous ceramic pot, two tanks and pressure regulators for oxygen and methane, an ignition system, and a device that contained this experiment. Due to the volatile nature of the chemical reaction between the two gasses, three prototypes were designed. By varying the experimental parameters of time length of the reaction, voltage, gas flow rate, and pressure, we were able to draw conclusions for what the optimal criterion are for interacting the gasses. More specifically, running the experimental reaction for 2 minutes, setting a voltage of 14 volts (V), exposing the system to a pressure of 20 hertz (Hz) all contributed to the testing the methanol samples. Using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy analysis, we observed methanol peaks, intermediate formaldehyde peaks, and methanol dimer peaks, successfully accomplishing the goal of this project. By changing certain parameters for future experimentation and then testing the outcomes, the device can be modified to produce the cleanest methanol that can be used to power technologies that are used today. Using this device to spur the adoption of methanol as an alternative energy resource can conserve our existing petroleum reserves, increase competition among energy providers, and reduce cost. Also since methanol burns cleaner than petroleum-based fuels, developing automobiles, transportation, and power generation using methanol can grow existing technology companies, most likely start new ones, and deliver environmental benefits.