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Novel technologies for solar fuel production are expected to increasingly contribute to meeting our nation’s environmental and energy needs. Mimicking nature’s ability to photochemically split water is attractive because the resulting products, hydrogen and oxygen, are environmentally benign as is the downstream combustion product, water. Recent developments in producing solar fuels include biologically-templated nanoparticle catalysts for hydrogen production and electrodeposited metal-organic compounds for water oxidation. Many details about the assembly chemistry, the identity, and the location of the catalytically active sites are unknown for these nanoscale materials. This project focuses on making fundamental measurements of the reaction chemistry and catalytic intermediates in catalyst nanoarchitectures for water oxidation. It places specific emphasis on the development of constructs that improve the processibility and lifespan of the materials.
A transition to solar fuel will require high-efficiency catalysts that make use of domestic fuel feedstocks with minimal additional energy input. In the past several years, novel water oxidation catalysts from abundant elements have been reported. Catalysts deposited onto a photoactive substrate provide half of a photochemical hydrogen fuel production cycle. Fabricating these composite catalysts into well-defined nanostructures can improve production efficiency and substrate accessibility. The evolution of these systems into the final morphology will be measured using characterization methods with nanoscale spatial resolution.
Schematic diagram of how metal-containing protein subunits self-assemble to form fibers that carry out artificial photosynthesis reactions, including water oxidation. Use of biologically-templated nanomaterials is limited by a lack of metrologies to determine the atomic and molecular-level catalyst environment under working conditions, the electronic structure of surface sites on nanoclusters, and the chemical bonding of metal centers in catalytically active assemblies. Measurements to reveal chemical information about the catalyst binding sites and their activity in or on the scaffold are required to reveal the versatility, limitations and applications of these biomimetic assemblies.
Lead Organizational Unit:cnst
University of Nevada, Reno
Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
R. Adam Kinney
AFM-SECM Raman System
Veronika Szalai, Phone 301-975-3792