catalyst: a material, such as a metal or synthesized metal complex, that speeds a reaction without being consumed by it. The reaction occurs at the catalyst’s active site.
electrocatalyst: molecules that speed the conversion of electrical energy into chemical bonds in fuels, such as hydrogen or ammonia. These catalysts can also speed the breaking of chemical bonds to release energy.
EFRC: See Energy Frontier Research Center
Energy Frontier Research Center: a Department of Energy funded center designed to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a new 21st-century energy economy. Learn more in the Department of Energy press release.
fossil fuel: naturally occurring carbon or hydrocarbon fuel that is formed by the decomposition of plants and other living matter from a previous geologic time. Examples include coal, crude oil, and natural gas.
fuel cell: a device that combines oxygen and hydrogen into water and in the process creates electricity.
molecular electrocatalyst: a synthetic catalyst with a well-defined structure and a molecular weight usually less than 1000.
proton relays: functional groups, typically amines (nitrogen-containing organic functionalities) that play a crucial role in the delivery of protons to (or from) the active site of catalysts.
reduction: the gain of electrons in a reaction. Oxygen is reduced to water in this reaction because it gains four electrons.
O2 + 4e- + 4H+ ⇌ 2 H2O
oxidation: the loss of electrons in a reaction. A common example of oxidation is the formation of rust, where iron loses electrons.