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Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis - Energy Frontiers Research Center

A Fast Electrocatalyst for Oxidation of Hydrogen

November 2010

Illustration of the fastest molecular electrocatalyst for oxidation of hydrogen.

Oxidation of hydrogen in fuel cells is an efficient way to convert the chemical energy of an H-H bond into electricity, but fuel cells require platinum as a catalyst. Platinum is a precious metal of high cost and low abundance, so research at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis seeks to discover catalysts that utilize inexpensive, abundant metals. New results reported in Chemical Communications describe the synthesis, structure, and catalytic reactivity of a nickel complex that is the fastest molecular electrocatalyst for oxidation of hydrogen. The nickel complex has two cyclic diphosphine ligands with pendant amines functionalized with tert-butyl groups. When reacted with 1 atmosphere of hydrogen gas in the presence of a base, this complex catalyzes the oxidation of hydrogen at a rate of 50 s-1. Theoretical calculations as well as experimental results provide details into the chemical mechanism of this catalytic reaction.

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