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Understanding and Exploiting Biological Catalysts for Energy Cycling: Development of Infrared Spectroelectrochemistry for Studying Intermediates in Metalloenzyme Catalysis

Objective

Advanced catalysts for energy cycling will be essential to a future sustainable energy economy. Interconversion of water and hydrogen allows solar and other green electricity to be stored in transportable form as H2 - a fuel for electricity generation on demand. Precious metals (Pt) are the best catalysts currently available for H2 oxidation in fuel cells. In contrast, readily available Ni/Fe form the catalytic centres of robust enzymes used by micro-organisms to oxidise or produce H2 selectively, at rates rivalling platinum. Metalloenzymes also efficiently catalyse redox reactions of the nitrogen and carbon cycles. Electrochemistry of enzyme films on a graphite electrode provides a direct route to studying and exploiting biocatalysis, for example a fuel cell that produces electricity from dilute H2 in air using an electrode modified with hydrogenase. Understanding structures and complex chemistry of enzyme active sites is now an important challenge that underpins exploitation of enzymes and design of future catalysts. This project develops sensitive IR methods for metalloenzymes on conducting surfaces or particles. Ligands with strong InfraRed vibrational signatures (CO, CN-) are exploited as probes of active site chemistry for hydrogenases and carbon-cycling enzymes. The proposal unites physical techniques (surface vibrational spectroscopy, electrochemistry), microbiology (mutagenesis, microbial energy cycling), inorganic chemistry (reactions at unusual organometallic centres) and technology development (energy-catalysis) in addressing enzyme chemistry. Understanding the basis for the extreme catalytic selectivity of enzymes will contribute to knowledge of biological energy cycling and provide inspiration for new catalysts.

Call for proposal

ERC-2010-StG_20091028
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Host institution

THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
Address
Wellington Square University Offices
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Kylie Alison Vincent (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Stephen Conway (Dr.)
EU contribution
€ 1 373 322

Beneficiaries (1)

THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 1 373 322
Address
Wellington Square University Offices
OX1 2JD Oxford

See on map

Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Kylie Alison Vincent (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Stephen Conway (Dr.)