From PNNL Lab: “Iron Center and Pendant Nitrogen Needed to Achieve Catalyst’s Goal”
Scientists built catalysts that cleave bonds for platinum-free fuel cells
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“Results: To crack hydrogen molecules and free the electrons, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory built nature-inspired molecules that get the job done. These designer molecules, or catalysts, rely on an iron center and small, dangling molecular chains with strategically placed nitrogen atoms. Known as pendant amines, these chains draw in the hydrogen molecule and position it just so. The iron center breaks apart the hydrogen into protons and electrons. The pendant amines shuttle the protons off, and the process starts all over again.
Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory built a nature-inspired catalyst with an iron center and small, dangling molecular chains with strategically placed nitrogen atoms to crack hydrogen molecules and free the electrons needed for fuel cells.No image credit
‘We’re not trying to precisely mimic nature, just incorporate the salient features that make natural catalysts function, said Dr. Morris Bullock, Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, led by PNNL. The results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Why It Matters: Using fossil fuels to power cars and heat homes continues to raise economic, environmental, and security issues. A popular alternative is the fuel cell, which converts hydrogen, methanol, or other chemicals into water, and in the process it turns out electricity. But the catalyst of choice for the fuel cells is platinum, which is expensive and scarce. In contrast, iron is far less expensive and is the Earth’s most abundant metal.
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