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Pioneering Heterogeneous Organometallic-Mediated Electrocatalytic Reactions

Final Report Summary - PIHOMER (Pioneering Heterogeneous Organometallic-Mediated Electrocatalytic Reactions)

This project, PiHOMER, sought to combine the power of electrochemical transformations (reactions driven by an applied electric voltage) with the rich chemistry of inorganic complexes to catalyse a range of small molecule activation. To date, successful electrode platforms for the electro-catalytic activation of 2 important classes of chemical reaction C–H and C–halide bond activation have been developed.
Another important class of chemical reactions involve small molecule activation, such as hydrogen (H2). By combining the power of recently developed “frustrated Lewis pair” chemistry to activate H2 alongside electrochemical activation of these systems, we have developed a method of converting hydrogen into electrical energy with the potential to revolutionise fuel cell and battery technologies. For 150 years hydrogen fuel cells have proffered a clean source of energy by electrochemically “burning” hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. The only other by-product of a fuel cell is water. However, in the intervening years, almost all hydrogen fuel cells rely on expensive and rare platinum or platinum group metals to act as the electrocatalysts. The expense and rarity of these precious metal catalysts poses a significant economic barrier that limits the widespread adoption of fuel cell technology. Our discovery, the “electrochemical-frustrated Lewis pair” approach may enable us to replace platinum metals within existing fuel cell technology, allowing fuel cells to run using inexpensive and abundant carbon electrodes, and new types of batteries that can recharge in minutes (safely!) that do not require expensive or toxic metals to operate.