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Jim Mayer

Catalysis Investigator James Mayer Receives ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry

(August  2017)

Congratulations to Jim Mayer of Yale University on being selected for the 2018 American Chemical Society Award in Inorganic Chemistry. Mayer is a professor at Yale University and research leader in the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Thomas Rauchfuss

Thomas Rauchfuss Honored by ACS for Distinguished Service

(August  2017)

Congratulations to Thomas Rauchfuss on receiving the American Chemical Society's Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry. The award recognizes his service and research. Rauchfuss is a key member of the Advisory Committee for the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center sponsored by DOE's Office of Science.

Morris Bullock

Morris Bullock Honored for Scientific Achievement

(August  2017)

Congratulations to Dr. Morris Bullock on receiving Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's 2017 Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award.

Synthetic catalyst for energy storage

The Contradictory Catalyst

Researchers find the key to speeding up the rate of reaction of a potential catalyst for energy storage lies in making the reactive parts of the catalyst move more slowly.

(February  2017)

Researchers at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis find the key to speeding up the rate of reaction of a potential catalyst for energy storage lies in making the reactive parts of the catalyst move more slowly.


Transformations: New Initiative in Chemical Transformations, Energy Everywhere, Contradictory Catalyst

(February  2017)

Learn about the latest innovations in catalysis. Check out the January 2017 issue of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations.

Amino acid alters nickel

There and Back Again: Catalyst Mediates Energy-Efficient Proton Transport for Reversibility

Designer complex reduces obstacles in creating solar fuels

(February  2017)

Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that a complex with a proton pathway and stabilized by outer coordination sphere interactions is reversible for hydrogen production/oxidation at room temperature and pressure.

Morris Bullock

Morris Bullock Selected as AAAS Fellow

Fellows are selected for achievements that advance science and its applications

(December  2016)

Congratulations to Dr. Morris Bullock, Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis and member of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on being elected to the rank of fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

carbon footprint cartoon

Transformations: Fundamental Catalysis Enabling Zero-Carbon-Footprint Future, Scale-up of Aviation Biofuels from Alcohols, Five Cents about Nickel Catalysts

(August  2016)

The August issue of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis' Transformations recognizes innovation in catalysis. The lead item describes the potential of catalysis to enable a zero-carbon-footprint future. Also featured is the latest work on aviation biofuels by PNNL and industry partner LanzaTech.

Image showing ccobalt catalyst and lead investigator

The Case of the Cobalt Catalyst

The story's plotline could solve other mysteries around generating electricity without fossil fuels

(July  2016)

It's the worst short story ever written: on a dark and stormy night; the end. The real story -- the context, the tension, and the motivations -- are missing. That's what it feels like for scientists reading the reaction that uses a cobalt catalyst to produce hydrogen. Dr. Eric Wiedner and Dr. Morris Bullock at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wanted to know the rest of the story. They found out what happened between the first page and the last.

Morris Bullock Quoted in Chemical & Engineering News

(June  2016)

Morris Bullock
Morris Bullock was quoted in the June 13, 2016, issue of Chemical and Engineering News.

In the June 13 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, Dr. Morris Bullock at Pacific Northwest National laboratory is quoted as an outside expert. In the article titled "Chemists announce the end of the innocence for cyclopentadienyl," writer Stephen K. Ritter covers research by two groups that show the ligand cyclopentadienyl is reactive, suggesting new opportunities for catalyst design. Bullock is quoted at the end of the article about the significance of the research.

At the national laboratory, Bullock leads the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and American Chemical Society. His work in developing transition metal electrocatalysts earned him the Royal Society of Chemistry's Homogeneous Catalysis Award in 2013.

Following Nature's Lead: Mimicking Enzymes to Release Energy

Lessons from nature inspire breakthrough in catalyzing electricity from renewable energy

(June  2016)

Researchers at PNNL have demonstrated that stored renewable energy can be interconverted efficiently and inexpensively by mimicking enzymatic catalysts used in biological processes. This new catalyst actually performs best in water and at temperatures and acidities remarkably similar to conditions found in hydrogen fuel cells.

Artistic representation of catalysis research and applications

Catalyze It! Special Issue Highlights Drive for Discoveries at National Labs

(May  2016)

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and ten other labs had their work featured in a special issue of ACS Catalysis. Their efforts have clarified basic scientific principles, funded by DOE's Office of Science, and have resolved issues for biofuels, emission control, fuel cells, and more, funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The peer-reviewed online publication features ten articles by PNNL scientists and their university collaborators.

Catalytic efficiency vs cost

Five Cents About Nickel Catalysts

Computational methods and experimental techniques reveal important design principles for future nickel catalysts

(May  2016)

Platinum is a good catalyst, but it costs ~$950 an ounce. Nickel, whose market price of less than $4 a pound, is an attractive option, but it doesn’t pack the same punch. Two Energy Frontier Research Centers are helping nickel muscle its way to center stage of fuel production. Read more in this article which first appeared in Frontiers in Energy Research.

Four reactions on gold background

Measuring Up: The Gold Standard for Catalysts in Real World Conditions

Combining 4 well-known reactions precisely predicts how well a catalyst performs

(April  2016)

High efficiency is the goal when using renewable energy to split water into hydrogen (a fuel) and oxygen. Catalysts are the workhorses that accomplish this conversion, but in some cases, scientists haven't had an easy way to know if a catalyst is living up to its potential. Methods are well established for calculating that potential when the catalyst is in water, but not when in other solvents. Scientists have found a way to bridge this gap. With just four reactions, the team showed how much energy each catalyst could use if it worked perfectly. This work was done through the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center.

Chromium catalyzes reaction

Chromium Breaks the Toughest of Bonds, with the Right Support

Phosphorus atoms help drive metal to form ammonia, adding insights to turning renewable energy to fuel

(March  2016)

At the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, scientists showed what it takes to make long-overlooked chromium help form ammonia; this work is a critical step in controlling a reaction that could store electrons from intermittent wind and solar stations in use-any-time fuels.

Sharon Hammes-Schiffer Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

(May 2013)

Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

Congratulations to Prof. Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, on being selected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. A world leader in theoretical and computational chemistry, Hammes-Schiffer studies proton-coupled electron transfer reactions at the Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences. She is the Swanlund Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Established 150 years ago by President Abraham Lincoln, the National Academy of Sciences is an official adviser to our nation's government, upon request, in any matter of science or engineering. This prestigious organization furthers science through the election of its members and through original research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Would You Hire This Catalyst?

(May 2013)

Would you hire this Catalyst

Given two catalysts for the job of turning intermittent wind or solar energy into chemical fuels, scientists chose the material that gets the job done quickly and uses the least energy. A catalyst that quickly produces fuel but uses far more energy than it stores won't get the job. Scientists could measure the overpotential in water but not in other liquids, until Dr. Morris Bullock and Dr. John Roberts devised a quick, elegant technique. This work was done at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by DOE's Basic Energy Sciences.

Controlling Proton Source Speeds Catalyst in Turning Electricity into Fuels

(April 2013)

April JACS cover

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

(March 2013)

March Transformations Newsletter

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.

Chemical Society Symposium to Honor Catalysis Research of Dan DuBois

(March 2013)

Dan DuBois

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.

Synthetic Molecule First Electricity-Making Catalyst to Use Iron to Split Hydrogen Gas

(February 2013)


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.

Adding Natural Elements to Synthetic Catalysts Speeds Hydrogen Production

(February 2013)


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 Can Speed or Distract Common Catalyst

(February 2013)


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.

A Pathway for Protons

(January 2013)

Pathway for Protons

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.

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Our Mission

Develop a comprehensive understanding of molecular electrocatalysts that efficiently convert electrical energy into chemical bonds in fuels, or the reverse, convert chemical energy from fuels into electrical energy. To learn more about the Energy Frontier Research Centers, visit the Department of Energy's EFRC website.


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