Molecular cleavage using plasma is well known. This microwave plasma technology involves microwave induced plasma to energy efficiently cleave CH4 into graphitic carbon and hydrogen, with no CO2 emissions. The process uses non-equilibrium (or ’cold’) plasma induced by microwave energy from magnetrons. Microwaves provide a unique means of efficiently transferring energy directly into the electron bonds in gas molecules. In this non-equilibrium plasma, ionisation and chemical processes are directly determined by electron temperatures, and therefore not as sensitive to thermal processes and the gas ion temperature as thermal plasma. This enables increased energy efficiency, milder process conditions and reduced process complexity.

The key element of innovation is the generation of large homo­geneous non-equilibrium plasma zones for cracking methane into valuable carbon products at atmospheric pressure with potential for industrial scale operation.