Abstract: Hydrogen Generation via Transition Metal complexes

Artificial Photosynthesis is a promising mechanism through which clean, renewable energy can be generated.  Photosynthesis allows a plant to synthesize glucose to use as fuel.  Instead of generating glucose as a final product, artificial photosynthesis generates hydrogen. The mechanism involves a chromophore, a semiconductor, and an electrocatalyst (Fig. 1).  When sunlight hits a chromophore, an electron becomes excited.  This electron is then transferred to a semiconductor, which then transfers the electron to an electrocatalyst.  The electrocatalyst reduces the protons naturally found in water to generate hydrogen gas.   Over the summer, I will be researching a cobalt complex that will act as an electrocatalyst.  Cobalt is earth abundant and has low cost, which will ultimately lower the cost of this mechanism.  The cobalt complex itself is inspired by a similar iron complex previously synthesized in my research lab.  Specifically, I will be running organic syntheses in order to create the ligand so that I may later complex it with cobalt.  This will then yield the electrocatalyst.  Once synthesized, I will then analyze it  using electrochemical experiments to observe its stability and efficiency.  Hydrogen can be introduced into a fuel cell to generate energy, releasing water vapor as waste.  Making this process cost effective and efficient may eventually turn it into a promising alternative energy source.

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