Iron catalyzed formation of methyl radicals as a common source of environmentally important volatile organic compounds
Project team: Jonas Hädeler, Frank Keppler in cooperation with Heidelberg University, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry (Prof. Dr. Comba)
Organic and inorganic volatile compounds containing one carbon atom (C1), such as carbon dioxide, methane, methanol, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and chloromethane are ubiquitous in the environment and play an important role in atmospheric physics and chemistry as they act as greenhouse gases, destroy stratospheric and tropospheric ozone and control the atmospheric oxidation capacity. Furthermore, these compounds play an important role in global carbon cycling. Up to now, most C1 compounds in the environment were associated to complex metabolic and enzymatic pathways in organisms or combustion processes of organic matter. So far, it was not recognized that many C1 compounds in the geobiosphere might also have a common origin in methyl groups from methyl-substituted substrates that are cleaved by the iron-catalyzed formation of methyl radicals.
The aim of this project is to determine the reaction mechanisms behind these processes and transfer the gained knowledge to the geobiosphere. To investigate this, laboratory experiments are carried out and computer models are used to simulate the chemical processes.