Tackling Our Energy Challenges in a New Era of Science
Scientists at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis demonstrated that matching the proton source's pKa to that of a nickel-based catalyst speeds the conversion of electricity to hydrogen bonds dramatically. Turning electricity into chemical bonds and vice versa is necessary to capture intermittent renewable energy as use-any-time fuel. The Center is an Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and is led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Transformations Presents Catalysis and Sustainable Energy
The latest issue of Transformations shows the role of catalysts in making wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources a major part of the nation's energy landscape. Dr. Dan DuBois, Deputy Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, shares the three principles involved in creating electrocatalysts, which drive the interconversion of electricity to energy stored in chemical bonds. Learn about this research and much more at the American Chemical Society symposium being held in his honor. Applied and fundamental scientists talk about the power of theory or computational chemistry to break chemistry bottlenecks and settle basic energy questions. Don't miss the latest video – featuring the Center's Dr. Monte Helm and Dr. Morris Bullock.
Given his scientific successes and caring personality, the opportunities to speak at the 1.5-day symposium honoring the career of Dr. Dan DuBois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, filled quickly. The event honors DuBois American Chemical Society's Award in Inorganic Chemistry. Dr. Aaron Appel and Dr. Monte Helm at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, along with Dr. Jenny Yang at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, organized the symposium.
Scientists at Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed a fast and efficient iron-based catalyst that splits hydrogen gas to make electricity -- necessary to make fuel cells more economical.
By grafting features analogous to those in Mother Nature's catalysts onto a synthetic catalyst, scientists created a hydrogen production catalyst that is 40% faster than the unmodified catalyst. This study provides foundational information that could, one day, help design and synthesize the catalysts for hydrogen production for fuels, long-lasting electric car batteries, and energy storage from solar and wind farms.
Proton delivery and removal determines if a well-studied catalyst takes its highly productive form or twists into a less useful structure, according to scientists at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The catalyst takes two protons and forms molecular hydrogen, or it can split the hydrogen. The team showed that the most productive isomer, endo/endo, has the key nitrogen-hydrogen bonds pushed close to the nickel center. If the catalyst is in the endo/endo form, the reaction occurs in a fraction of a second. If the catalyst is stuck in another form, the reaction takes days to complete.
Moving four relatively large protons to where they are needed is easier if you build a path, as is being done by scientists at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis. The research team has built two iron-based compounds that help protons move from the exterior to where they are needed. Once delivered, the protons bond with molecular oxygen and create water. In previous compounds, the protons often don't arrive in time or go to the wrong place, which leads to forming the unwanted byproduct hydrogen peroxide. The new compounds direct the protons in ways that help separate the two oxygen atoms in O2, and thereby drive the reaction to completion.