Bio-inspired Solar Light Driven Hydrogen Production

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Energy is one of the most important issues of the twenty-first century, because our future supply is currently threatened by progressively decreasing fossil fuel reserves, political instability and environmental problems resulting in pollution and global warming. Renewable hydrogen, H2, is widely considered as a potential future fuel, but its cheap and efficient production is still a major unresolved practical issue. The sun provides our planet with a continuous flow of electromagnetic and carbon-free energy and it is the only energy source, which is capable of sustaining human kind's long-term energy demand. The aim of this EPSRC-funded project is the development of an efficient bio-inspired H2 production catalyst from abundant and inexpensive raw materials and its coupling to light-harvesting complexes to capture energy provided by the sun to power H2 production from water - the storage of solar energy in the chemical bond of H2.Selective and economical chemical catalysts are needed for the central chemical interconversion of energy, water and H2 if there is to be a real prospect of promoting H2 as a sustainable fuel. Commonly employed precious metal catalysts (e.g. platinum) cannot be used for H2 production in the post-fossil fuel era, because of (i) limited resources and high cost, (ii) poor reaction selectivity (e.g. energy is wasted on unwanted side-reactions), and (iii) poisoning (catalyst-killing) by trace amounts of common chemicals, e.g. carbon monoxide. Microbial life forms handle the challenging task of H2 production using bio-catalysts (hydrogenases) to drive the selective and reversible production of H2 from water at fast rates under the safe conditions of room temperature and neutral pH. The catalytic reaction centre (active site) of hydrogenases contains an iron or nickel-iron metal centre surrounded typically by cysteine, carbon monoxide and cyanide ligands. Thus, the active site of a hydrogenase is an interesting biological motif to mimic in order to build H2 production catalysts from abundant and inexpensive raw materials. This adventurous work on solar H2 production has the prospect of being a fundamental step towards large-scale water photolysis for a sustainable hydrogen economy. International (France, USA) and national (Manchester) academic as well as industrial (Evonik Industries) collaborators with expertise in enzyme biology, spectroscopy, solar cells, nanoparticles, and neutron diffraction will support this project under my guidance. In addition, this work on bio-inspired/biomimetic H2 production catalysts will also deal with wastewater treatment, the synthesis of fine chemicals, and might give us insight into how living organisms convert water into H2 on a molecular level, and reveal how the reverse reaction works: the generation of energy from H2, which is important for fuel cell applications.

Publications

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Bassegoda A (2014) Reversible interconversion of CO2 and formate by a molybdenum-containing formate dehydrogenase. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Dumanli A (2014) Digital Color in Cellulose Nanocrystal Films in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

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Kuehnel MF (2015) Photocatalytic Formic Acid Conversion on CdS Nanocrystals with Controllable Selectivity for H2 or CO. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/H00338X/1 01/09/2009 01/10/2010 £745,769
EP/H00338X/2 Transfer EP/H00338X/1 01/10/2010 28/02/2015 £747,111
 
Description We have developed the self-assembly of semiconductors and molecular catalysts for solar fuel synthesis. We described the sunlight driven production of H2 in water with a synthetic molecular catalyst immobilised on a semiconductor surface. This work exploits synergies between homogenous and heterogeneous catalysis. We have subsequently built up on this approach, improved the performance and understanding of semiconductor-catalyst hybrid systems and extended this concept to a range of different light absorbers and catalysts.

Selected publications:
Lakadamyali, F.; Reisner, E. Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 1695-1697.
Lakadamyali, F.; Kato, M.; Muresan, N. M.; Reisner, E. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2012, 51, 9381-9384.
Lakadamyali, F.; Reynal, A.; Kato, M.; Durrant, J. R.; Reisner, E. Chem. Eur. J., 2012 , 18, 15464-15475.
Lin, C.-Y.; Lai, Y.-H.; Mersch, D.; Reisner, E. Chem. Sci., 2012, 3, 3482-3487.
Muresan, N. M.; Willkomm, J.; Mersch, D.; Vaynzof, Y.; Reisner, E. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2012, 51, 12749-12753.
Reynal, A.; Lakadamyali, F.; Gross, M. A.; Reisner, E. Durrant, J. R. Energy Environ. Sci., 2013 , 6, 3291-3300.
Scherer, M.; Muresan, N. M.; Steiner, U.; Reisner, E. Chem. Commun., 2013, 49, 10453-10455.
Wombwell, C.; Reisner, E. Dalton Trans., 2014, 43, 4483-4493.
Gross, M. A.; Reynal, A.; Durrant, J. R.; Reisner, E. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2014, 136, 356-366.
Caputo, C. A.; Gross, M. A.; Lau, V. W.; Cavazza, C.; Lotsch, B. V.; Reisner, E. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2014, in print.
Reynal, A.; Willkomm, J.; Muresan, N. M.; Lakadamyali, F.; Planells, M.; Reisner, E.; Durrant, J. R. Chem. Commun., 2014, 50, 12768-12771.

Work on this grant is still ongoing.
Exploitation Route Renewable fuel generation by utilizing sunlight to produce sustainable hydrogen; a potential future energy vector. The future of our society, economy and national security are inevitably linked to a sustainable energy supply. The vision of my CAF project is to tackle the pressing global Renewable Energy challenge of turning solar into chemical energy in the form of renewable H2; the key component for a hydrogen-based economy. My CAF project has the highly challenging aim to develop a novel prototype system for the photocatalytic reduction of aqueous protons to H2.
Sectors Energy

URL http://www-reisner.ch.cam.ac.uk/
 
Description This project has laid the foundations to set up the Christian Doppler Laboratory within the Reisner Group. This Laboratory is funded by Christian Doppler Research Association (Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy and National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development), the OMV Group
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Energy,Other
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Contribution to the "Solar Fuels Vision Statement"
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description ECH2020 EUROPEAN RESEARCH COUNCIL - MATENSAP: Semi-artificial photosynthesis with wired enzymes
Amount € 1,715,252 (EUR)
Funding ID 682833 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2016 
End 11/2021
 
Description Impact Acceleration Award (follow on from career accelertion fellowship)
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H00338X/2 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 05/2017
 
Description UKRI Circular Economy Approaches to Eliminate Plastic Waste - University of Cambridge
Amount £1,010,066 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S025308/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 06/2020
 
Title Molecular Ni Catalyst for H2 evolution 
Description Versatile Photocatalytic Systems for H2 Generation in Water Based on an Efficient DuBois-type Nickel Catalyst 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Molecular Ni Catalyst for H2 evolution developed in my group (Gross, Reynal, Durrant, & Reisner J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2014, 136, 356-366) commercialised via Strem Chemicals Product number: 28-1720. CAS number: 1514896-39-9. 
 
Description 2nd Japan-UK Symposium in Tokyo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description 4th International Symposium on Solar Fuels and Solar Cells, Dalian, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk spared questions and discussion afterwards

TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Facebook account with information about the group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Facebook account with information about the group to make the wider public aware of research work done by the Reisner Group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://www.facebook.com/ReisnerLab
 
Description Faraday Discussion meeting on 'Nest-Generation Materials for Energy Chemistry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

tbc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Solar Fuel 14 meeting in Montreal, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

TBC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Twitter account for the Reisner Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Twitter account to spread the news about the Reisner Group's work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL https://twitter.com/reisnerlab
 
Description Youtube Channel with Movies from the Reisner Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presenting short video's about the Reisner Group's Research work on youtube to make the wider public aware of the work and research of the group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/user/reisnerlab