Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Light Touch

Iron complexes as efficient catalysts for the light-driven extraction of hydrogen from water

Hydrogen is a promising alternative energy carrier that can be efficiently converted into electrical energy in fuel cells.

One hurdle to the introduction of sustainable hydrogen technology is the fact that the large-scale industrial production of hydrogen through reforming processes is still largely based on fossil fuels, and thus is not carbon neutral. “One of the most important goals for chemists is to use solar energy for the generation of energy carriers like hydrogen,” says Matthias Beller of the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis in Rostock (Germany).

“The biggest attraction is the use of water as a source of hydrogen.” Beller’s Rostock team, in collaboration with scientists in Rennes (France), has now developed a new catalytic system that can make this dream come true. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, their efficient system is based on simple, inexpensive iron carbonyl complexes.

By means of photosynthesis, plants are particularly good at converting light into chemical energy. Their success relies on complicated reaction cascades that are activated by light energy. Electrons are passed on through multiple reaction steps that involve a number of “helper agents”. Based on this principle, light-driven reaction cascades for the reduction of water to hydrogen are currently being developed around the world.

The significant components for Beller’s novel cascade are a photosensitizer, a source of electrons (electron donor), and the actual water-reduction catalyst. The photosensitizer absorbs the incoming light, capturing its energy. Subsequently, the electron donor transfers an electron to the excited photosensitizer. Now negatively charged, the photosensitizer transfers its extra electron to the water reduction catalyst. The catalyst uses the electron to reduce protons (H+ ions) from the water to hydrogen (H2).

In order for the whole process to proceed, the individual components must be well tuned to each other. The team selected a known photosensitizer that contains the metal iridium; their electron donor is triethylamine. Whereas most researchers have concentrated on expensive precious metals as water reduction catalysts, the Rostock research team settled on an affordable alternative: simple, readily available iron carbonyls (coordination complexes made of iron atoms and CO molecules).

“Our new catalytic system demonstrates that simple and affordable iron complexes can be used for the production of hydrogen from water,” says Beller. “In order to carry out this reaction on a larger scale in the future, we are currently working on improvements to the photosensitizer and the use of water as the electron donor.”

Author: Matthias Beller, Universität Rostock (Germany),

Title: Light-Driven Hydrogen Generation: Efficient Iron-Based Water Reduction Catalysts

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.200905115

Matthias Beller | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>