Transform Materials Converts Abundant Natural Gas into High-Value Hydrogen and Acetylene

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Transform’s patented commercial-scale microwave plasma reactor system accelerates hydrogen infrastructure development and offers the petrochemical industry a path to reducing carbon emissions

Sep 29, 2020, 03:01 ET

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. The world is awash in natural gas. At hydraulic fracking wellheads, natural gas is often flared instead of collected due to its low value — a colossal waste of a natural resource and a significant increase in harmful greenhouse gases. What if natural gas could easily be converted into useful components with immediate, high-value applications?

Transform Materials offers compact, modular and multiplexed plasma reactors producing high-purity hydrogen and acetylene that customers can integrate into their existing infrastructure. Transform Materials’ technology replaces traditional chemical manufacturing and distribution with modern, clean, and energy-efficient alternatives.

Today, Transform Materials does just that – transforming the petrochemical industry by converting this abundant resource into two important chemical building-blocks. Rather than use crude oil to make the building blocks for essential products like plastics and pharmaceuticals, Transform Materials’ energy-efficient process instead uses the methane in natural gas, converting it into high-value hydrogen and acetylene using microwave plasma technology.

Transform’s patented conversion process is deceptively simple but took years to perfect. Methane, the key component in natural gas, is usually just burned for heat, combining with oxygen in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas. Oxidation of methane also introduces impurities in the product stream. To avoid these undesirable outcomes, methane must be broken down without oxygen. But methane is extremely inert in an oxygen-free environment and resists chemical reactions.

With its innovative technology, Transform Materials breaks down methane and other similar light hydrocarbon gases without oxygen, recombining the resulting fragments into two high-value end products, acetylene and hydrogen. The key to this transformation is a patented microwave plasma reactor system that generates these new products from methane efficiently at very high rates of conversion and selectivity.

“Our process is clean and cost-effective, employs robust and off-the-shelf microwave hardware, and requires a relatively compact plant footprint. Also, our reactors can be multiplexed to scale up and meet incremental market demand,” said David Soane Ph.D., CEO of Transform Materials. “We are especially proud of our environmental stewardship; we mop up methane and convert it into useful hydrogen fuel while simultaneously locking up carbon in valuable end products.”

Numerous potential downstream industries will benefit

Hydrogen is emerging as an important fuel. For example, Transform Materials can fully utilize coalbed methane from coal mining operators to produce green hydrogen to power heavy equipment and hauling trucks. Fuel-cell vehicle fleet operators can take advantage of distributed manufacturing and strategic siting of refueling stations. For passenger cars, Transform Materials’ technology enables the build-out of crucial hydrogen infrastructure and produces hydrogen using approximately 40 percent less energy input than conventional methods of production.

For acetylene users, Transform Materials enables on-site production of this important precursor, guaranteeing surety of supply, conveniently and at low cost. Acetylene can be then converted into many derivative chemicals, all possessing high value. In fact, the availability of low-cost acetylene may lead to a renaissance of acetylene use for traditional applications including PVC and acetylene black while laying the groundwork for new industrial applications. A notable example is acetylene-led synthesis of lactic acid, which in turn can be easily polymerized into polylactic acid, a biodegradable polymer for packaging applications that can mitigate ocean plastic pollution.

“Transform Materials provides a green alternative to conventional technologies in the hydrogen economy and the petrochemical industry. Our microwave plasma process harnesses the power of natural gas without burning it, a win for the environment as well as for our partners,” added Soane.

About Transform Materials
Transform Materials LLC was founded in 2014 by scientist and serial entrepreneur David Soane, Ph.D. During six years of sustained R&D, the company has developed a ground-breaking technology that uses microwave-generated plasma to energize the methane in natural gas to form acetylene and hydrogen, while avoiding the legacy processes in the chemical industry that generate impurities and form greenhouse gases. Complementing its contributions to chemical manufacturing, Transform’s technology also produces hydrogen in an energy-efficient way, addressing an important need in the burgeoning fuel cell industry. Transform’s systems are compact and modular, thus readily scalable to match customer needs, whether for large plants or small industrial applications, integrating with existing systems and architecture to minimize adoption costs. Transform’s patented technology platform initiates a green revolution in the utilization of natural gas, sidestepping CO2-forming combustion to convert this abundant resource into acetylene and hydrogen without requiring energy-intensive processing.  To learn more, visit

Media contact:
Mike Clinebell


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