A breakthrough in a new water splitting method allows for easier hydrogen production

A team of German chemists has discovered a new water-splitting process that allows hydrogen to be produced more easily, according to findings recently published in the journal. nature.

The discovery, made by a team from the University of M√ľnster, involves a photocatalytic process that activates water in a reaction accelerated by light energy, and could lead to new methods in chemistry involving the use of hydrogen atoms to produce compounds through the reaction. of simpler substances, known as synthesis.

Water splitting involves a chemical reaction where water is split into its component elements oxygen and hydrogen. Photocatalysis describes the process by which a chemical reaction is catalysed with light.

In the German research team’s new method, this is achieved in part with the help of tri-phosphines, a type of organophosphine that has many industrial applications that include use as light and heat stabilizers.

Of major interest in the researchers’ new water splitting method is the ease with which it allows the production of hydrogen, which is widely seen as a potential energy solution for the coming decades. Hydrogen is also important because of the active role it plays in the formation of many basic compounds.

While chemists have long recognized the usefulness of hydrogen, they also understand the stability of water, which makes splitting the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up it difficult. For this to happen, a catalyst must first be used to activate the water.

The German team, led by Professor Armido Studer of the University’s Institute of Organic Chemistry, developed a way to do this using a photocatalytic process. To activate the water, Studer and his team used triphosphates instead of the transition metal complexes that chemists typically use in such processes.

Under these mild reaction conditions, the hydrogen atom is transferred to the radical cation of phosphine and water in a process driven by the light generated by the LED. Radicals are useful intermediates in such processes because of their high reactivity, and the radical cation of phosphine and water is particularly able to act as a water activation intermediate. The result is that the hydrogen atoms can easily be split and then transferred to the substrate.

The system his team has devised, Studer says, “provides an ideal platform to study unstudied chemical processes that use the hydrogen atom as a reagent in the manufacturing process.”

Applications of such an advanced water splitting method span the fields of materials science, as well as chemicals used in agriculture and even pharmaceutical research.

The team’s findings were recently published in the journal nature It may eventually help pave the way for new areas of research, including radical chemistry.

Micah Hanks is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Debrief. He can be contacted via e-mail at micah@thedebrief.org. Follow up on his work micahhanks.com And on Twitter: @mechahanks.

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