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Title: Experimental and Computational Mechanistic Studies Guiding the Rational Design of Molecular Electrocatalysts for Production and Oxidation of Hydrogen

Understanding how to control the movement of protons and electrons is crucial to the design of fast, efficient electrocatalysts for hydrogen production and oxidation based on earth-abundant metals. Our work seeks to elucidate fundamental questions about proton movement. We have demonstrated that incorporating a pendant amine functioning as a proton relay in the second coordination sphere of a metal complex helps proton mobility, resulting in faster and more energy efficient catalysts. Proton transfer reactions are often rate limiting, and are influenced by several factors, such as pKa values, steric effects, hydrogen bonding, and solvation/desolvation of the exogenous base and acid employed. The presence of multiple protonation sites introduces branching points along the catalytic cycle, making less productive pathways accessible, or leading to the formation of stable off-cycle species. Using ligands with only one pendant amine mitigates this problem and results in catalysts with high rates for production of H2. For H2 oxidation catalysts, iron complexes with a high H2 binding affinity were developed. However, the improvement of H2 binding enthalpy resulted in a pKa mismatch between the protonated metal center and the protonated pendant amine, and consequently to rate-limiting intramolecular proton movement. Taken altogether, our results demonstrate the necessity ofmore » optimizing the entire catalytic cycle, as the optimization of a specific catalytic step can negatively influence another step, and not necessarily lead to better catalytic performance. We discuss a general procedure, based on thermodynamic arguments, which allows the simultaneous minimization of the free energy change of each catalytic step, yielding a nearly flat free energy surface, with no large barriers due to energy mismatches from either high- or low-energy intermediates. This research 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. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated by Battelle for DOE.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0020-1669; KC0307010
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Inorganic Chemistry; Journal Volume: 55; Journal Issue: 2
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
hydrogen; catalysis; computations