Cobalt Has Advanced Further As Catalyst For Bringing Solar Fuels To Reality

By Menahem, Zen | Jun 06, 2017 04:39 AM EDT

A team of researchers has further advanced the research to use cobalt as a catalyst for solar fuels. The team from Argonne National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy and Harvard University expected their finding will pave the way for unlocking the mystery of solar fuels.

For the first time in the history, scientists are able to see an important step to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using cobalt as a catalyst, according to Argonne National Laboratory. This experiencent has moved the science and technology one step closer to the capability to extract the abundant solar energy.

Chemists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have been able to witness the "electronic dance" between hydrogen and oxygen atoms during the splitting of water molecules with cobalt as a catalyst. The first authors of the study are the scientist at Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division of the Argonne National Laboratory, Ryan Hadt and a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the Harvard University, Casey N. Brodsky. The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In order to split the water molecules, two parts of the process are necessary with cobalt as a catalyst for the whole process. The first and most important one is the water oxidation, which makes the transfer of four protons and four electrons. This will create a formation of an oxygen-oxygen bond.

The first process requires a cobalt as a catalyst to introduce a chemical twist in the water molecule. Researchers focused on creating the bridge to connect two oxygen atoms with two cobalt ions. Afterward, the cobalt ions are given additional positive charge to increase the state of oxidation.

When the positive charge is added into cobalt as a catalyst, the hydrogen atoms in the water molecule begins to dissociate from its oxygen bonds, making the cobalt atoms to receive oxygen electrons The oxygen electrons from the oxidation process can be used for solar fuel. This invention is expected to pave the way to an abundant solar fuel.

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