Dual-atom catalyst yields clean energy by artificial photosynthesis

Avatar By Delila James | 3 years ago

Scientists from the United States and China have created a new, dual-atom catalyst that can be used as a platform for artificial photosynthesis.

The novel technology arises from efforts to harvest and store solar energy more efficiently, according to a statement from Boston College.

The research is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Our research concerns the technology for direct solar energy storage,” says one of the lead authors, Dunwei Wang, a Boston College Associate Professor of Chemistry, in the statement. “It addresses the critical challenge that solar energy is intermittent. It does so by directly harvesting solar energy and storing the energy in chemical bonds, similar to how photosynthesis is performed but with higher efficiencies and lower cost.”

The team reports synthesizing an iridium binuclear catalyst with only two active metal centers that is exceptionally stable and shows high activity toward water oxidation — a crucial process in natural photosynthesis.

Using X-ray experiments at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source, the team was able to determine the structure of the iridium catalyst.

The team wanted to find out “what the smallest active and most durable heterogeneous catalyst unit for water oxidation could be,” Wang says. “Previously, researchers have asked this question and found the answer only in homogeneous catalysts, whose durability was poor. For the first time, we have a glimpse of the potential of heterogeneous catalysts in clean energy production and storage.”

The next phase of the research will include further optimization of the catalyst for practical applications and look at ways the catalyst can be applied to new chemical transformations, according to Wang.