Emory University chemists have developed the most potent homogeneous catalyst known for water oxidation, considered a crucial component for generating clean hydrogen fuel using only water and sunlight. The breakthrough, published March 11 in the journal Science, was made in collaboration with the Paris Institute of Molecular Chemistry.
Pictured are bubbles of oxygen forming from water oxidation, catalyzed by the new tetra-cobalt WOC.
The fastest, carbon-free molecular water oxidation catalyst (WOC) to date "has really upped the standard from the other known homogeneous WOCs," said Emory inorganic chemist Craig Hill, whose lab led the effort. "It's like a home run compared to a base hit."
In order to be viable, a WOC needs selectivity, stability and speed. Homogeneity is also a desired trait, since it boosts efficiency and makes the WOC easer to study and optimize. The new WOC has all of these qualities, and it is based on the cheap and abundant element cobalt, adding to its potential to help solar energy go mainstream.
Benjamin Yin, an undergraduate student in Hill's lab, is the lead author on the Science paper. Emory chemists who are co-authors include Hill, Yurii Gueletii, Jamal Musaev, Zhen Luo and Ken Hardcastle. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the work.