Final Report Summary - ENERGYBIOCATALYSIS (Understanding and Exploiting Biological Catalysts for Energy Cycling: Development of Infrared Spectroelectrochemistry for Studying Intermediates in Metalloenzyme Catalysis)
This project concerns oxidation and reduction catalysis for activation of small molecules, with applications in fuel cells, energy storage and production of chemicals and fuels. We have contributed to this field in two significant areas. Firstly, we have developed sensitive new tools that make it possible to study catalysts as they undergo catalytic turnover controlled at an electrode. We have applied these to enzymes (nature’s catalysts) and to industry-standard metal nanoparticle catalysts to probe catalytic mechanisms. In particular we have made significant findings on the mechanism of oxidation or production of dihydrogen at the NiFe catalytic site of enzymes called hydrogenases. We have also established new details on the oxidation of small fuel molecules such as formic acid and methanol on precious fuel cell catalysts. Our approaches will enable a unified understanding of biological and metal catalysts to be established, providing fundamental biological insight, and underpinning the development of new generations of bio-inspired catalysts and the rational design of new metal nanoparticle catalysts. The second major contribution we have made to the field of catalysis is in biocatalysis for industrial biotechnology. We have established an approach for using dihydrogen to drive catalytic reactions for the synthesis of complex chemicals such as pharmaceuticals and flavour/fragrance molecules. This brings together the well-established field of hydrogenation chemistry (which uses dihydrogen as a clean reagent, but usually requires toxic, expensive transition metal catalysts) with the field of industrial biocatalysis (which often generates substantial carbon based waste). Our HydRegen technology (patent pending) enables biocatalysed reactions to be carried out much more cleanly and efficiently, using dihydrogen gas as reagent. Overall, the project has made significant contributions to understanding and exploiting biocatalysis for small molecule activation, and has established new techniques and collaborations that will underpin future research stemming from the Vincent group.