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Hydrogenase biomimetics for electrochemical hydrogen production
An important component of future energy systems is postulated to be the use of hydrogen as a clean fuel, however a problem in this technology is the difficulty in transportation and storage of hydrogen gas. A potential solution is to generate hydrogen in situ by the electrocatalytic reduction of protons, a reaction traditionally catalysed by platinum. Nature has a evolved more efficient mechanisms for this process in the form of hydrogenase enzymes that contain Fe-Fe centres that reduce two protons to hydrogen gas at close to the thermodynamic ideal. Unfortunately the isolated enzyme is fragile and sensitive to oxygen, so cannot function for prolonged periods without damage. Dr Graeme Hogarth (UCL) and his group have devised synthetic methods to produce Fe-Fe complexes that mimic the structure of the active centre of the hydrogenase enzyme and we are working with him to investigate the electrochemical properties of these molecules and also their catalytic efficiency towards hydrogen production. The results of our electrochemical investigations will then feed back into the design and synthesis of further biomimetic complexes in order to obtain the most efficient catalysts.
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