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Title: Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer in Molecular Electrocatalysis: Theoretical Methods and Design Principles

Molecular electrocatalysts play an essential role in a wide range of energy conversion processes. The objective of electrocatalyst design is to maximize the turnover frequency and minimize the overpotential for the overall catalytic cycle. Typically the catalytic cycle is dominated by key proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) processes comprised of sequential or concerted electron transfer and proton transfer steps. A variety of theoretical methods have been developed to investigate the mechanisms, thermodynamics, and kinetics of PCET processes in electrocatalytic cycles. Electronic structure methods can be used to calculate the reduction potentials and pKa’s and to generate thermodynamic schemes, free energy reaction pathways, and Pourbaix diagrams, which indicate the most stable species at each pH and potential. These types of calculations have assisted in identifying the thermodynamically favorable mechanisms under specified experimental conditions, such as acid strength and overpotential. Such calculations have also revealed linear correlations among the thermodynamic properties, which can be used to predict the impact of modifying the ligand, substituents, or metal center. The role of non-innocent ligands, namely ligand protonation or reduction, has also been examined theoretically. In addition, the rate constants for electron and proton transfer reactions, as well as concerted PCET reactions, have been calculated tomore » investigate the kinetics of molecular electrocatalysts. The concerted PCET mechanism is thought to lower the overpotential required for catalysis by avoiding high-energy intermediates. Rate constant calculations have revealed that the concerted mechanism involving intramolecular proton transfer will be favored by designing more flexible ligands that facilitate the proton donor-acceptor motion while also maintaining a sufficiently short equilibrium proton donor-acceptor distance. Overall, theoretical methods have assisted in the interpretation of experimental data and the design of more effective molecular electrocatalysts. The research on the Ni(P2N2)2 catalysts was supported as part of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Inorganic Chemistry, 53(13):6427-6443
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States