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Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis - Energy Frontiers Research Center

Using Hydrogenase Enzymes to Guide Creating Fast and Efficient Molecular Electrocatalysts

January 2011

To create solar assemblies that use sunlight to split water and create hydrogen fuel requires designing fast, efficient catalysts. In an invited review article in the MRS Bulletin, scientists from the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis discuss the role and need to control proton movement in potential solar devices. To control proton mobility and produce hydrogen, scientists are looking to Mother Nature. Natural catalysts, hydrogenase enzymes, rapidly break apart and re-form molecular hydrogen, and the molecules provide outstanding models for developing simpler molecules for industrial use. In particular, enzymes are very efficient at using pendant bases. The authors discuss the roles of the amines, including shuffling protons between the metal center and the pendant amines, promoting inter- and intramolecular proton transfers, connecting proton and electron transfers, aiding in hydrogen cleavage, and stabilizing reaction intermediates.

Reference: JY Yang, RM Bullock, M Rakowski DuBois, and DL DuBois. 2011. "Fast and Efficient Molecular Electrocatalysts for H2 Production: Using Hydrogenase Enzymes as Guides." MRS Bulletin 36(1):39-47. DOI:

Energy Frontier Research Centers


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